Sunday, November 23, 2008

Long Beach Winter Shelter

Press-Telegram's Staff Writer, Paul Eakins, wrote about the opening of Long Beach's Winter Shelter on 10/16/08. The Winter Shelter is scheduled to open on time this year. The shelter is being run by the Rescue Mission. Long Beach leases the building and sublets it to the Mission for $5,175. per month. The Mission is reimbursed by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority.

I may have eaten lunch at the Mission once. I never went there for Sunday meals. Too late in the evening and a mandatory religious sermon, I mean service was required before being allowed to eat. I suppose the displaced residents of 500 plus homes destroyed by fire this week, would be told their now homelessness is due to their habit of hopeless sinning. I heard a lot about the Mission from men who stayed there, year round. The Christian religion was a large part of their accepting shelter and meals. What if one is a Muslim and homeless, I wonder. Or Hebrew? There are so many thousands of Christian religions; what if one is Christian, but with opposing beliefs to those preached at the Mission.

It seems unfair to hand over tax dollars to a non-secular organization to run. I know from experience that all I want from a shelter is to be out of the wind and the rain. I want that 24/7 toilet also. A sink with hot running water, much appreciated as is a shower. Sleeping indoors off the ground is another big plus as are the meals. I am not a Christian, although I obey those 10 Commandments and live some of Jesus' teachings. Buddha's teachings are much the same. Or I do not consider myself a hopeless sinner. Perhaps it is the sins of others that caused my homelessness. Well, I have already ranted on this subject, so will shut up.

The building being rented can hold 131 beds. There is no shower facilities and it will require port-a-pots. Oy, I remember that experience all too well. The estimate was 4,000 homeless people in LB. A lucky 131 will get shelter for the winter, but no showers and good luck with getting to use one of those port-a-pots. Especially with a religious group running the show; most likely will forbid use of the john, except at their specified hours. Not good for the elderly or others with small or weak bladders. It still boggles my mind that the bus will stop in San Pedro to bring homeless from that area to the Long Beach Winter Shelter.

I know the body limit was exceeded some nights when I stayed at the Winter Shelters. So many people were turned away. There could be 50 or 100 people left standing on the sidewalk at the bus stop. So, good news that the shelter will open on time. Yet how much better if Long Beach had a large, non-religious run year round shelter. I suspect the number of homeless will be increasing, not decreasing anytime soon.


LBRM CEO said...

As the CEO of the Long Beach Rescue Mission, I take issue with several of your points in this post:

One is that you are not required to sit in the chapel for the message -- there is no religious requirement for overnight services. Just mention that to a chaplain and you can sit in the courtyard during the brief message. Besides, as our meals are BEFORE chapel you can always leave prior to chapel. In annual surveys, over 90% of guests polled enjoy the religious element of our services. Our Sunday morning is an actual church service -- also not mandatory.

As for tax-dollars funding the Winter Shelter, we make NO profit from this service and we are reimbursed for actual line-item costs. And there are NO religious elements there at all -- not even voluntary.

Thirdly, there were never numerous persons waiting at the bus stop beyond our capacity. We hardly ever exceeded the maximum occupancy -- even when we had 200 beds two years ago. We also voucher to motels families and those with special needs. Showers are available at the city's MSC and no one is hindered from using the toilets at any time.

Lastly, San Pedro is included as this is a shelter for LAHSA Shelter Program Area 8 - which includes surrounding communities to Long Beach.

I regret that you have a dim view of LBRM and the gift of hospitality we offer to the homeless of our community. We don't just give a hand-out but offer a hand-up. The few complaints we get are usually from those who don’t care for the hand-up part. We hope to expand overnight beds in this city and as we do, our continued commitment is to serve everyone as Christ would . . . and sometimes we might even voice why we do it.

alyceclover said...

What I wrote about the Mission was what homeless peers told me in 2004 and 2005. That does not mean what I was told was accurate, only their experience with the program.

I wrote about my personal experience, being sent across the street to the Lydia House and sent back again to the Mission, blah, blah, blah, earlier on this blog.

I do not think I implied that the Mission turns a profit or they being at fault for the number of beds that are available.

With an estimated 4,000 homeless in Long Beach, it seems it better to build a year round shelter, separating "church and state". This is only my opinion.

LBRM CEO said...

I don't believe that helping the homeless is the government's job . . . it’s my job, the church's job, the community's job. I would rather give my time, treasure and talent directly than via taxes that pay for bureaucratic waste.

alyceclover said...

I would prefer my tax dollars went to feeding people than killing people, such as in Iraq. I too gave directly to the needy when I was homed and employed.

God did not make countries, man did. Governments decided they own all the land, and have the right to impose laws upon people (such as sending 18 year olds to Vietnam to kill 13 year old boys) and as such, it becomes the government's responsiblity to care for it's citizens.

A lot of homeless people would be content to find some empty spot to "live off the land" but in doing so, they become criminals under U.S. law. If being without a home makes one a criminal, then yes, tax dollars should provide a year round shelter.

Anonymous said...

The Long Beach Mission does a great service for the homeless people, and for the city of Long Beach. The author of this article is not well informed and appears to have a deep seated issue with anyone who professes to believe in the Lord and offers services.
It is disappointing to me that someone with this type of a mind bend would be writing articles for a newspaper.
Until you have been in a homeless condition yourself you should refrain from offering your opinion about those who assist the homeless.