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Report on Long Beach Homeless Goes to City Council : Task Force Study Gets Cordial Reception; Some Officials Voice Their Reservations

November 19, 1987|ROXANA KOPETMAN | Times Staff Writer

LONG BEACH — A task force that has irritated some City Council members in the past with a series of proposals to aggressively address the problems of the homeless received a cordial, even friendly, reception this week from the council.

But whether its more sweeping proposals--from rent control to use of port revenues to support the homeless--will ever be implemented remained in doubt as council members expressed reservations.

The council congratulated the task force for its work and then sent the 122-page report to its Quality of Life Committee and the city manager for review. Eventually, the report will come back to the council but no timetable was set.

Members of the Mayor and City Council's Task Force on the Homeless expressed optimism after the meeting and said they intend to remain involved and follow the numerous public hearings and meetings that will now ensue.

"They seemed sincerely appreciative" of the task force's efforts, Vice Chairwoman Bonnie Adler Lowenthal said after the meeting. "Compared to a year ago, they are much more concerned about developing programs for the homeless."

In its report, the task force recommended that the city:

Use up to 10% of the Port of Long Beach's net income to fund programs for the homeless.

Demand that developers contribute to a housing trust fund for low-income housing. The contribution would vary depending on the size of the project.

Lobby for programs at the county, state and federal levels for better health care for the poor, including support for legislation to create an "assigned risk" pool for individuals who cannot otherwise obtain health insurance.

Support a move by the task force and others to open a center where homeless people can bathe, pick up mail and get counseling and establish a separate 24-hour detoxification center.

Adopt rent control throughout the city.

Give more attention to the mentally ill and to a broad range of housing programs.

Adopt an ordinance forcing landlords to show "just cause" in eviction cases.

Use a portion of the county-operated Carmelitos Housing Project as a transition shelter for the homeless.

But the 20-member group could not agree on all its suggestions and six of its members, including Chairwoman Audrey Langslet, issued a minority opinion that recommended against adopting rent control, using harbor revenue money or enacting an eviction ordinance.

The dissenting group also opposed city involvement in lawsuits filed by the cities of Los Angeles and Santa Monica against the County of Los Angeles. The lawsuits seek to have the county provide adequately for the indigent. The majority report said Long Beach "might consider joining such a lawsuit."

"It appears to be counterproductive and certainly not cost-effective, and it is questionable as to how expedient a suit might be and what positive results, if any, might be obtained," the dissenting group wrote in its opinion.

While complimentary of the group's efforts, council members said they are cautious of some its recommendations.

Councilman Edd Tuttle said he is concerned with the recommendation to use Carmelitos, which is in his district, for the homeless. Tuttle said he does not want the homeless concentrated in his district.

"The Eighth District has probably done more than any district in town in providing low-cost housing," Tuttle said Wednesday. His district should not become "a focal point" for the homeless in Long Beach, he said.

Councilman Tom Clark said he does not expect the council to adopt at least two of the recommendations that have been turned down in the past: rent control and just cause eviction.

Mayor Ernie Kell said after the meeting that he is "neutral" on the group's suggestion that he take the lead in forming a campaign to raise funds for the homeless. "I will have to take a look at it," Kell said.

Council members also questioned the number of people the task force said are homeless in Long Beach. After conducting interviews with homeless people and surveying shelters, a task force subcommittee estimated that about 5,000 persons are homeless for some period of time during the year in this city.

"I don't think there are 5,000 homeless in Long Beach. I have a tremendous problem with those numbers," Kell said.

Despite the concerns voiced this week, reaction to the report was low-key compared to interaction between the task force and the city earlier this year.

Considered Resigning

In September, members of the task force said they seriously considered resigning after reading a city review of an interim report released by the task force. In the interim report, the group included numerous statistics on what was being done for the homeless. In its review of the report, the city corrected or updated much of the information. The task force complained that the city appeared to have spent more time preparing the critique than in assisting the group.

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