After 38 years living on the streets, Ron had no idea how to use the key for the doorknob of his new apartment. The social worker had to give him a quick Apartment Entry 101 lesson.
Anthony and Becky, on the other hand, had no problem getting into their new digs, after spending nearly 3,000 nights on the street. Upon entering her new apartment, Becky sported a wide smile while telling a local newspaper reporter, “No police are gonna come by and wake me up.”
In the past year, over 60 similar happy homecomings have occurred in Long Beach, a California beach community just south of Los Angeles. These joyful entrances are a result of a community-based homeless initiative called, Long Beach Connections. Long Beach joined the 100K Homes Campaign and used the tools of Common Ground to index every homeless person in the downtown area.
When organizers of this innovative housing initiative started moving in the first group of homeless people listed on the Vulnerability Index, they realized they were going to have a problem.
“We couldn’t just move people into empty apartments,” said Martha Long, a co-chair of Long Beach Connections. “We wanted them to feel overjoyed about moving into a furnished home.”
So they turned to Kingdom Causes, a local faith group alliance, in hopes that each faith group would adopt an apartment.
The typical responses to homelessness by faith groups are to cook meals or pass out food baskets. Connections leaders thought furnishing apartments would be a great way for the faith community to participate in actually ending a person’s homelessness.
For a faith group, building permanent supportive housing could seem daunting. But providing a couch and chair, place settings, and a set of linens is much more enticing, and desperately needed.
Who wants to move into a cold, empty apartment? So Kingdom Causes took up the cause of turning apartments into homes.
Now, every time an apartment is secured for a homeless person on the Long Beach Vulnerability Index, Kingdom Causes jumps into action. For Anthony and Becky’s apartment, Susy De Lucca, of Kingdom Causes, even made sure the donated couch and the dining room chairs matched.
Over 30 Long Beach faith groups are now involved in putting together a “Welcome Home Registry,” a specific list of items needed for the apartment, from a dining room set to place settings for four.
In the past year, with the help of the faith community, Long Beach Connections has housed 18 percent of the total homeless population in the downtown area.
This month, Ron celebrates his first anniversary living in his apartment. He worries about his electricity bill and what to cook for dinner, just like the rest of the housed world. He is safe and secure after 38 grueling years on the streets.
Anthony and Becky will celebrate their re-housed anniversary this Christmas.