May 11, 2022 07:49AM ● By Jeanne Fratello
Manhattan Beach was able to celebrate two homelessness success stories last week, with outreach workers securing housing for two previously homeless men. The successful placement came about in part due to the unique partnership between Manhattan Beach's homelessness outreach efforts and the local homelessness nonprofit MBSAFE.
"It takes the community, collaborating with MBSAFE, collaborating with City Council," said Rita Crabtree-Kampe, the Homeless Connect Chair with MBSAFE (who became a Certified Peer Specialist to do effective homeless outreach and education). "Collaboration - and persistence - is the only way to be successful."
"It’s definitely a success story of city resources and a volunteer nonprofit being of assistance to the community and to the city," concurred George Gabriel, assistant to the city manager and Manhattan Beach's homelessness liaison. "The city continues to show that status quo is not going to be accepted, that we’re going to keep on thinking of ideas to address housing. We’re always looking at potential solutions."
Two Homeless Men Housed
Crabtree-Kampe and Gabriel both gave credit to Manhattan Beach's new dedicated homeless outreach navigator, Maira Matias, who started in January, for building strong and trusting relationships with local homeless individuals. As a city contractor, Matias works hand-in-hand with MBSAFE to identify homeless individuals and help them become aware of services that are available to them.
The first individual, A., had been mostly seen in El Porto. He has local family, but they were unable to assist him, said Crabtree-Kampe.
Although A. had resisted earlier attempts for assistance, Matias was able to work with him and build up trust over time so "he just started to soften up a little bit," and ultimately agreed to the offer of housing, said Crabtree-Kampe.
The second individual, P., had mostly hung out around the Manhattan Beach Library. "He had a desire to get into housing, but he didn’t have the trust level [to accept the help], said Crabtree-Kampe. "But Maira was so wonderful, so persistent with him, talking with him about resources she could get him...By Friday he agreed to go into housing."
The men were both placed in SHARE! Collaborative Housing. (By coincidence, the men are now roommates in the same house.) SHARE! Collaborative Housing is a public/private partnership to provide immediate permanent supportive housing to disabled adults. People with similar issues live like college roommates in furnished single family houses all across Los Angeles. Each SHARE! house is equipped with a fully furnished kitchen, cable TV, and computers with high speed internet. Both Matias' work and the collaborative housing program are funded and managed by the city with funds approved by the City Council in November 2021. All told, the city's commitment to addressing homelessness and dedicating staff and financial resources to combat homelessness in the community totals $86,000 annually. MBSAFE further supplements that effort with their volunteer time and with private donations. For example, MBSAFE secured donations such as clothing and toiletries to assist A. and P. in their transition into housing. Both Matias and MBSAFE will continue to work with them to ensure that they are able to access the resources available to them. "I cannot sing the praises of Maira well enough - for sticking to it and not giving up on anyone," said Crabtree-Kampe. 'A Hand Up, Not a Hand Out' Manhattan Beach and MBSAFE continue to work together to create "success stories" for homeless individuals.
Crabtree-Kampe noted that one young woman who received assistance last year had lived for nine months in temporary housing and just recently secured permanent housing. She holds down a good job, maintains her mental health appointments, and keeps in touch with Crabtree-Kampe. "She reaches out and wants to tell me her happy stories," said Crabtree-Kampe. Not all outreach ends in securing local housing, however. Another young man with whom MBSAFE had worked is on a bus this week, returning to his hometown. MBSAFE paid for his $300 bus ticket, and also supplied him with a cooler full of snacks and drinks, and gift cards for McDonald's and other restaurants along the way. Crabtree-Kampe emphasized that MBSAFE does not give money to individuals. "We stand firm on 'A hand up, not a hand out,'" she said. Furthermore, she said, regarding MBSAFE's message, "It’s not 'Get out of my front yard,' it’s 'What are your goals, and how can we help you achieve them?' The handouts just keep them on the street another day, but resources help them get to where they want to be so they so they can empower themselves." MBSAFE often seeks donations of goods for specific individuals, she added, and monetary contributions to the organization are always welcome as well. Those monetary contributions can pay for a variety of supports for individuals in their transition to housing, including, for example, the bus ticket for the young man traveling this week. Photo collage/illustration via MBSAFE MBSAFE accepts donations through its website, by check at MBSAFE, P.O.BOX 2282, Manhattan Beach, CA, 90267, or through Venmo at @mbsafe. Homelessness in Manhattan Beach The city of Manhattan Beach established its commitment to combat homelessness through a Five-Year Plan to Address Homelessness in Our Community (PDF). It has created a homeless resource guide (PDF) to summarize a variety of resources offered near the Manhattan Beach area for those experiencing homelessness. (MBNews reported about a another recent homelessness success story here.) The Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) in coordination with the South Bay Coalition to End Homelessness conducts an annual homeless count on one night each January or February, including in Manhattan Beach. Gabriel prepared the following report on the 2022 homeless count for the May 3 City Council meeting (but that item was continued until the May 17 meeting): "On February 23, 2022 approximately 30 volunteers gathered at the Joslyn Community Center to conduct the 2022 Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count in Manhattan Beach. At the event, volunteers were introduced to City officials and briefed on the City’s response to homelessness including the City’s actions to utilize general fund and grant funded money. Most importantly, volunteers were introduced to the Police Department’s homeless outreach team as well as the City’s newly contracted outreach services worker, Maira Matias. While conducting the count, Maira was deployed to assist some homeless individuals that were tallied by homeless count volunteers. "Unofficially, volunteers tallied seven (7) homeless individuals in Manhattan Beach. However, it should be noted that due to the cold weather that night, homeless individuals were likely to seek shelter and may not have been tallied. Additionally, while this number is encouraging it does not reflect the Los Angeles Homeless Service Authority’s (LAHSA) official count and is not subject to the conversion factor that accounts for sheltered accommodations such as vehicles, tents, or makeshift shelters. For comparison, fifteen individuals were counted in Manhattan Beach in 2020, down from 21 individuals in 2019 and 41 individuals in 2018.”