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Opinion : Issue: Homeless Fund

March 10, 1994|Ann Griffith, Times community correspondent

Three years ago, Long Beach Mayor Ernie Kell set up a fund and asked residents to donate money to benefit the homeless. Donations have amounted to $136,000, but only part of it has been spent. How should the money be allocated to do the most good?

Ernie Kell

Long Beach Mayor We should stay with the dream we've been working on for about three years--to bring all the agencies in the community together under one roof through a multi-

service center. When a homeless person comes in, we'll see if they are a veteran, if they are getting their veterans' benefits. If they are old enough to get Social Security, we'll make sure that they're getting Social Security. They can use the center's address, and we'll help them get a resume together, see if there's a job out there and that they apply. Since we don't have a location yet, we decided that $45,000 be spent to aid the homeless right now.

Marc Coleman

President Long Beach Area Citizens Involved I would use that money to pay coordinators to form a consortium from existing service providers already tuned into the needs of the homeless and the available resources. We could assess each individual's situation and give the kind of personalized, custom treatment that the homeless veterans get two days a year in the Stand Down program. That money would be used to help coordinate volunteers and agencies and provide those resources 365 days a year so that all homeless get the same attention as veterans: medical treatment, job placement, mental and legal counseling and access to housing.

Marshall Blesofsky

Board member Homeless Organizing Committee The main thing is just to keep most of that money together for the multi-service center and to make it a political reality. It's going to take a lot of money to get that going, and we need to take the initiative. The mayor should raise more money by going to his supporters in business groups instead of just putting little envelopes in utility bills. When the mayor ran for office he raised more than $500,000--more than the $136,000 he's raised for the homeless fund. I'm also leaning toward using some of this money toward an outreach worker for the mentally ill at an existing shelter.

Cedric Hinson

Director

Christian Outreach Appeal I would help improve the financial resources of agencies that address the immediate and intermediate needs of the homeless. The immediate need of a person in a position like that would have to do with food and shelter, so agencies that provide that should get some of the money. Then I would look for which agencies are providing help after the shower and the meal. The ultimate end is not the Band-Aid fix. They need to find long-term housing and employment. There are homeless people out there who have worked and have job skills, at least enough to do janitorial work.

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