In this episode Amber Sheikh Ginsberg and I have a serious discussion about one of the community's most heated topics: homelessness. She is probably one of the most informed and qualified people in the area I could possibly have this discussion with as she has worked closely with those experiencing homelessness for much of her career.
EPISODE DATE: 11/22/2018
Amber is an LA based non-profit consultant with Thurlow/Associates and San Pedro Resident of about a decade. Prior to becoming a consultant she worked in homeless services, education and with social justice organizations. She is currently the Vice Chair of the Coastal San Pedro Neighborhood Council's Homelessness Committee and coordinates the CD15 Working Group on Homelessness. She lives with her husband and two young children here in San Pedro.
She, like many others in town, is concerned about the growing homeless population we're seeing in San Pedro. But everyone is concerned for different reasons. Her and I begin our discussion by talking about homelessness as a whole and the general lack of empathy we have toward it as a society.
Amber on people experiencing homelessness in San Pedro :
"In San Pedro itself we have five hundred homeless individuals. Those are five hundred solutions, as well. There's not one blanket solution." - Amber Sheikh Ginsberg
I share a personal story of a young man named Kyesyn who I had met at a gas station leaving work in El Segundo. He offered to wash my windows for spare change. I had just got a carwash the day before so I just gave him spare change, but I also decided to ask his name, and what his situation was. He told me that he had graduated from high school this year, and he and his mom had immigrated from Jamaica. His mom recently passed away, he doesn't tell me why, but that was his story. His mom, who was the bread winner and rent payer, died and he immediately became homeless.
Amber understands this all too well and she shares stories of others she's met. She describes working on skid row and meeting a woman who looked and dressed just like herself. Assuming she was there to volunteer, she was immediately humbled when she learned that she was there to get lunch. This is just another example of how every individual experiencing homelessness has an individual story of why they are homeless.
Amber cautions us against "otherizing":
"If we just replaced 'All homeless are vagrants' ... Just replace the word with anything else... It's called bigotry. It's called hate speech." - Amber Sheikh Ginsberg
"Bigotry" is a strong word but she's right. If we really look at what is being said about "the homeless" we are constantly addressing them as a collective group, and in history, when we've done that with any other group of people society has since labeled it as hate speech.
Taking a step back
Of course, both Amber and I are not experiencing homelessness, but we really take a look at how close we both could be to that very real situation. She says most of us are "two paychecks and an illness" away from homelessness.
Why we need a shelter here in San Pedro:
"There are NO shelter beds in San Pedro for homeless individuals. I feel like repeating that over and over again. There are NO shelter beds for individuals in San Pedro. There's no where to go in San Pedro if you are homeless tonight, tomorrow, next week."
- Amber Sheikh Ginsberg
She shares some eye-opening information about the resources that are available here in San Pedro including the fact that we have zero shelter beds for individuals. Harbor Interfaith only houses families experiencing homelessness, and the number of beds they provide is still low at fifty-eight. She shares that research shows that more than 70% of our homeless are either from San Pedro, have family here or has ties here. They are a part of this community. She wasn't able to provide the number of kids in LAUSD schools that are experiencing homelessness because the number that she had heard was so high that she didn't want to believe it or share it publicly.
She also encourages us all to support solutions and gives us information on where we can learn more.
After the recording of this episode our councilman Joe Buscaino posted on facebook that the number of kids experiencing homelessness in LAUSD schools is 15,589. He also confirms that the Beacon Street site is suitable for a Bridge Home shelter.
Councilman's post announcing the Bridge Home
Video on Bridge Home project
Daily Breeze article "Angry Protestors..."
Daily Breeze article "Homeless shelter supporters.."
Siren's Java & Tea