Back in June, a CityLab headline, and a quote within the story, really struck me. The headline said “To Fight Homelessness, Long Beach Turned Meetings Into Action” and within the story was this quote from Steve Be Cotte, president of the Long Beach Area Coalition for the Homelessness: “A lot of times in homeless services, people [have] meetings and meetings, and not a lot gets done.”
Endless meetings on homelessness and coordination, but no action. Sound familiar?
Last year, we named the downtown homeless population our 2016 Voice of the Year — they had provoked the most intense civic discussions about the city and where it was headed. Soon after, Mayor Kevin Faulconer insisted he was listening, and ready to do something. He made homelessness a centerpiece of his State of the City address, and pledged action.
Forget for a second that Faulconer had already been mayor for about three years at that point, and that homelessness was a major issue that had gone unaddressed that entire time. Even after that big speech and acknowledgment that it was finally time for Faulconer to take legitimate steps to address homelessness — something other than throwing jagged rocks in their way, and lying about it, that is — not much happened.
Even local business leaders, typically Faulconer’s most loyal constituency, grew impatient and frustrated.
The great irony of all this, we now know, is that in those months following Faulconer’s State of the City address, with nothing happening to address the problem, a deadly virus was beginning to take hold and spread through the encampments that months and years of inaction had allowed to flourish. Once again, it would be months before anyone did anything significant to address the problem, even as people began to die.