Every night, around 150 people walk through the Long Beach Rescue Mission’s doors to access a hot shower.
“We go through a ton of toiletries as we’re offering our guests showers, so to be able to have the supplies that meet their needs—it’s critical. It would be horrible if we didn’t have soap to offer,” said Rescue Mission executive director Jeff Levin. ”Our part is to dignify those who come through our doors.”
Thanks to a partnership with Fresh Start, a Downtown Long Beach Alliance initiative, the Rescue Mission has been able to sustain its supply of toiletries, receiving about 10 boxes containing soap, towels, shampoo, deodorant and toothpaste at the end of August.
“As we head into the fall, and we have more people seeking shelters as the weather gets colder, having those additional resources allows us to continue our services,” said Levin.
Fresh Start, a solutions-oriented campaign created and developed by the Downtown Long Beach Alliance’s Public Safety Committee, launched in 2021 and was able to expand on its success this year.
Long Beach residents “were expressing concerns about the unhoused, they were also expressing a desire to help,” said Downtown Long Beach Alliance Chief Operating Officer Broc Coward. “So the committee took those two takeaways and said, ‘Maybe we can create a program that gives people an opportunity to participate in a positive way.’”
When building the framework for the program, local organizations working directly with Long Beach’s homeless residents cited hygiene items and bath towels as pressing needs, creating the basis for Fresh Start, said Coward.
Recipients of the donated items included U.S. VETS, Mental Health America of Los Angeles’s Long Beach chapter and the Rescue Mission—all organizations that focus on providing services to the city’s homeless population.
“What I’ve learned about Long Beach is there’s always a spirit of collaboration. We’re not competition. We’re trying to make difference,” said Levin. “We as an organization recognize that without collaborative relationships with other nonprofits and partners throughout the city, it’s just impossible to do what we want to do.”
Fresh Start donation boxes placed in 31 local businesses and seven residential towers garnered 2,987 donated items—a 32% increase from last year, when seven or eight local businesses and two residential towers participated and raised around 2,000 items, said Coward.
In addition, 45 boxes containing 37,344 sustainable feminine products from Kindfully were donated by its Long Beach-based founder, and $2,217 was contributed by Solita Tacos & Margaritas, a new restaurant and bar located on Ocean Boulevard, from its grand opening and silent auction, said Coward.
Beachwood Brewing as well as HOKA also united with Downtown Runners, a local organization, to contribute shoes to the campaign.
In addition to directly donating items, residents could contribute through a QR code, purchasing items through Amazon to be sent directly to the service providers.
Coward hopes that the campaign prompts Long Beach residents to start looking into the people and organizations making an impact on homelessness in the city, he said.
“If you want to help or get involved, Fresh Start provides that opportunity,” Coward said.
Looking forward to next year, Coward hopes that the program will continue to build upon its success and will reach 50 participating businesses and at least 10 residential towers, he said. Coward would also like to see the number of service providers potentially increase from three to five.
“Long Beach Rescue Mission, U.S VETS, and Mental Health America of Los Angeles, their Long Beach chapter, are all doing great work in their own respect,” Coward said. “It helps the conversation when you’re talking about the unhoused.”