Housing & Homelessness
ICO Congregations and Housing & Homelessness
ICO's involvement in issues of housing and homelessness began, as all our issue work begins, through a series of one-to-one's and research visits undertaken by ICO leaders from the Unitarian Universalist Church of Long Beach (UULB), a founding ICO congregation. In 2002, UULB leaders began a series of visits motivated by concerns about the growing homeless population in downtown Long Beach. Those visits led to a determination that what was needed was a permanent year-round shelter that would provide transitional housing while helping move residents from homelessness to permanent housing.
For the next three years, the UULB ICO Local Organizing Committee convened partnerships with other Long Beach homeless advocates, gave presentations at other churches, testified at numerous City Council meetings, and raised $71,000 for its Homeless Shelter Startup Fund when the denomination's national General Assembly came to Long Beach in June 2004.
On Thanksgiving Day, 2005, the Project Achieve Homeless Shelter opened, serving 59 clients at a time every 90 days. On February 9, 2006, ICO was recognized by the shelter's operator, the Institute for Urban Research & Development, for its organizing work and financial support to bring the shelter to Long Beach.
ICO's work on housing and homeless did not stop with the opening of the shelter. ICO has taken a leadership role on other initiatives designed to address the housing affordability crisis facing the city's low-income families, including:
- The Long Beach Housing Trust Fund, a City budget line-item funded through the hotel bed tax that generates about $500,000 a year. ICO's research during the shelter push revealed that local hotels and motels pay a bed tax that was going into the City's General Fund. ICO leaders argued successfully that, as much of the bed tax revenue comes from motels which provide temporary transitional housing for low-income residents, that revenue stream should be designated for uses to alleviate the affordability crunch. However, it remains the only revenue source currently dedicated by the City to the Housing Trust Fund.
- A motel re-use initiative, a related outcome of the shelter push. As noted above, ICO's research revealed many motels in Long Beach have significant populations of near-homeless individuals and families. ICO leaders have begun and series of research visits and one-to-one's to build support for a motel re-use program that would redevelop some of these hotels into permanent single-room-occupancy and/or efficiency housing.
- Inclusionary zoning statutes that would require developers to include a certain number of affordable housing units as part of any new housing development.
- Implementation of the City's 10-Year Plan to End Homelessness, released in late 2007. ICO is leading a push to get each of Long Beach's nine City Council districts to commit to supporting at least one development or initiative to provide housing options for the homeless over the next two years in support of the 10-Year Plan.