"In two years, since our 2009 Homeless Vulnerability Survey, 80 individuals have been housed. In 2009, there were 76 reported veterans living on the streets of Long Beach. Today, there are 46 reported veterans living on our streets. What an interesting time to note that as the rise in homelessness and unemployment grow in our country, it is valuable to recognize that our efforts are stronger and more effective than ever to end homelessness in Long Beach. Services are becoming more efficiently and methodically resourced to people who need them the most." – State of the Homeless in Downtown Long Beach, September 28, 2011
I heard these statistics and heartfelt stories of encouragement and illuminated optimism at the 'Reveal' on September 28th of the 2011 Homeless Vulnerability survey results. All at 11am, outside the offices to the gatekeepers of our city: Long Beach City Hall. A press conference type briefing revealed the recent finds of the three-day count back in July. As I jotted names and stats down on my notepad, I felt a fresh and lively connection to this cause, for I had just helped house a homeless veteran the day prior.
His name is "Snoop". He was a prize boxer back in his day. And a former military veteran. I met the team of fellow movers; all four of us from different churches in Long Beach, at the Kingdom Causes warehouse where we picked the perfect pieces of furniture and home goods to accompany Snoop in his new studio abode. We efficiently packed up the vehicles and pushed off to the apartment on Chestnut Avenue. We began pulling things inside, and assembling the big furniture pieces in a warm and welcoming way. Snoop wasn't far behind us when he walked in with his set of keys in hand, to a place all his own. His case manager snapped a picture of him entering. All eyes on him. You could tell Snoop liked all the attention but didn't know what to do with it. After some of the movers parted, a few of us remained with Snoop for a little while. A "goodbye, be good" was just around the corner. We all felt it. Snoop got right in to an apology:
"I slept in this morning at the motel I was staying at. I was meaning to get here before you guys. You know, the most normal and simple things become abnormal and difficult once you been out here like me. Like you forget or something."
"Well Snoop," someone chimed in, "This is your new normal."As the few of us began saying our goodbyes to Snoop; hugs, handshakes and kind words, he walked all of us down the stairs and out front to where our cars were parked. I could only imagine that for Snoop, four walls and a door was something of an alternate reality, a paradigm shift. He now had an address, a place, a space all his own...and it wasn't comfortable. Yet. How could we expect it to be...so soon? It will take time. It will take follow-ups and check-ins and "Should we come over next week for pizza at your new place Snoop?" It will take a community. It will take support for Snoop to call his new place Home.
I feel this pretty much sums up the shift that takes place in transitioning individuals, like Snoop and so many others that will get into housing this year: "Changing the identity, means a change in the mentality, means a change in the destiny." -anonymous