According to city estimates, about 2,000 people experience homelessness on any given night in Long Beach. Daily, there are hundreds of men and women seeking services at shelters and homeless service providers.
So, it was no surprise several months ago that members of the DLBA Public Safety Committee reached out to non-profit organizations who serve the homeless. Members were looking for direct insight to help shape yearly goals including a key Public Safety Education Series. During those conversations, though, something stood out.
“The committee wanted to learn firsthand how they could make a difference and best support local service providers who we were familiar with and do good work serving our unhoused neighbors downtown. What jumped out was a consistent need for towels as well as personal hygiene products that are really part of individuals regaining their lives and dignity,” said Broc Coward, COO, DLBA.
Echoing that need is Robert Probst, Executive Director of the Long Beach Rescue Mission, which provides an average of 68,000 bed nights and showers per year. “When someone in need comes through our doors, the first step of healing and renewal begins with a hot shower, clean clothing and a warm meal to ease the physical distress and a chance to rest,” Probst said.
With the needs of service providers and their members in mind, the Public Safety Committee began developing the details and logistics around a new “Fresh Start” donation campaign involving businesses and residents in Downtown. However, one important detail prevented them from moving forward: COVID-19 health orders restricted business hours and interaction between the committee and stakeholders in order to collect donations.
Sharing Plans Leads to “game changer”
Separately, members of Special Events and Sponsorship were also modifying their committee goals. There had been a recommendation to attach a donation component to a signature event to raise funds and awareness on issues related to Downtown. However, city and state restrictions due to COVID-19 made it impossible to have in-person events, so committee leadership reached out to the Public Safety Committee to identify ways of supporting their donation campaign.
When goals were shared, the Special Events and Sponsorship Committee brought up the online donation idea. The suggestion included a process through an online Amazon gift registry that would enable products to be easily purchased and shipped directly to non-profit service providers.
“That was a game changer,” said Coward. “It enables people to make donations for pre-set products in a click versus a more onerous process of physically going to the store, searching for products, and ultimately delivering the goods.”
Unhoused, Service Providers Benefit from Donation Registry
The online registry was key to moving the Fresh Start campaign forward with a launch at the beginning of June. The program is timed to coincide with Public Safety month. The community can make tax-deductible donations of pre-determined types of towels and personal hygiene products and supplies through the Fresh Start donations page.
The products are shipped directly to one of three service providers participating in the program: City of Long Beach Multi-Service Center, which houses 12 public and private organizations, Long Beach Rescue Mission and U.S. Vets. These organizations have extensive support services for men, women and children including providing basic amenities like hot showers, towels, and access to health services.
“While most of us enjoy everyday life, others are not so lucky. Lonely, hungry, and desperate, underemployed, prone to sickness and early death, often seeking solace through drugs and alcohol, many have made the streets their home. An alarming percentage includes women and children,” Probst added.
Fresh Start Donations
The two-month campaign runs through the end of July. It will be heavily promoted through the DLBA’s website and social media channels. The team also plans to offer specially marked collection boxes to residential towers and businesses. The drop boxes will include a QR code that takes users directly to the donation page. DLBA Safety Ambassadors plan to collect products from drop boxes and deliver them to the providers.
“We are excited to see how much Fresh Start resonates with the community,” Coward added. “As we evaluate the results, it’s possible this pilot program could become an annual campaign or a template for the way we help other community organizations.”