April marks the two-year anniversary of the establishment of Alleybusters, a partnership between the 110-year-old national non-profit Mental Health America (MHA) and the DLBA. The program, which started in the alleys of the Willmore District, was created to provide an avenue of employment and connectedness for persons experiencing homelessness and a history of mental illness.
Many among the homeless population of Long Beach were suffering from mental illness when they began their life on the streets. Others developed these issues due to the stress of homelessness itself.
An Alleybusters job can go a long way in providing these people with feelings of self-worth and self-reliance, giving them the chance to get the satisfaction of bringing home a paycheck.
According to DLBA Community Outreach Manager Steve Be Cotte, “the program is designed to help persons who need assistance in developing their job skills. We provide an opportunity for these individuals to refine their skill set, help recognize their self-esteem and re-introduce them to the mainstream workforce. They sweep the alleys, pick up trash and also assist with the hauling of bulk trash items. They are also accepting responsibilities which helps them make contributions to their recovery and to the community.”
“I’ve seen first-hand what happens with these individuals when they find themselves contributing to our community goals of keeping a clean and safe environment,” said Josina Lawrence, Alleybusters Program Manager. “I love that the partnership between the DLBA and MHA provides a service that positively impacts the city.”
The MHA Village, located in a Spanish Colonial-style building on Elm Street in DTLB, is where people with a history of mental illness can become members (not “patients”) and receive individualized services through the Village’s Homeless Assistance Program (HAP). Basic needs such as laundry, clothing, and showers are addressed on-site.
MHA Personal Services Consultants are available to connect members with housing opportunities, substance abuse recovery support, mental health assessment and treatment, and work opportunities like Alleybusters.
Alleybusters provides an opportunity for its workers to develop the attitudes and behaviors that are required in the mainstream workforce. The program provides the support of a team and a chance for its participants to cultivate a healthy and productive self-image.
The DLBA serves as a full-circle facilitator in the Alleybusters program: A DLBA Homeless Outreach Specialist often refers persons on the street to MHA for services. Once selected for the Alleybusters program, these Village members are brought to work sites in a van, where they are tasked with sweeping, weeding and cleaning DTLB’s alleys. The DLBA partners with the City of Long Beach’s Public Works Department, who provides a place for disposal of large dumped and discarded items.
Stand-out Alleybusters often end up becoming employed vendors contracted by the DLBA.
MHA Village also provides other employment opportunities for members; working in an on-site deli and mini-market, clerical positions in the Village office, and a maintenance service contracted with local businesses.
“It’s all about what skills you have, regardless of whatever your mental illness is,” said Be Cotte. “A job can be the glue that can hold an individual’s recovery together.”
For more information about Alleybusters, please contact Steve Be Cotte at (562) 436-4259.