Long Beach, 90802
The unequal distribution of wealth in Long Beach leaves children particularly vulnerable.
By: Michaela Kwoka-Coleman, Staff Writer
April 20, 2016
While some areas of Long Beach are in the middle of a renaissance, other areas are still experiencing economic hardship.
In March, ReThinking Long Beach published the “Long Beach Equity Atlas: Geographical Opportunity.” The purpose of the report is to show the geographic distribution of “Ethnic populations, resources, access to opportunities, and the relationships between them.”
ReThinking Long Beach is a civic engagement action group that works with social justice movements.
According to the “Long Beach Equity Atlas,” 21 percent of Long Beach residents live below the poverty line. The report says that the poverty rate in Long Beach is higher than the rest of Los Angeles County and the U.S.
This poverty is even more prevalent among youth under the age of 18. About 29 percent of those under the age of 18 live in poverty, and in Long Beach’s Sixth Council District, that number is over 40 percent, according to the report.
The Sixth Council District includes neighborhoods such as Poly Heights and South Wrigley, historically known for gang violence.
During February’s Long Beach’s People’s State of the City Address, hosted by the community group Long Beach Rising, host James Suazo said that the high rate of poverty means shorter life expectancies, less access to fresh food and quality housing, and higher rates of pollution, among other problems.
The Sixth Council District is inhabited primarily by Latinos, African American, and Cambodians, among other ethnic minorities.
Suazo said that although the unemployment rate in Long Beach dropped to a seven-year low of 6.4 percent in December 2015, the number of people living in poverty has remained the same.
Executive Director of Housing Long Beach Josh Butler said in an email that because of the cost of living in Long Beach, many people are forced to choose from basic living needs such as food, healthcare and transportation.
Housing Long Beach is one of the many nonprofit groups that works to improve and increase the availability of affordable housing in Long Beach.
According to photographer Duke Givens, who made a documentary about gang life in the 6th City Council District and who grew up in the Poly High neighborhood, poverty is broken into two categories: economical and social.
The economic aspect of poverty is the jobs available in the area in order to afford children a decent quality of life. According to Givens, the economics of poverty often force children to go to school hungry. This hunger often distracts them and inhibits their ability to pay attention in class.
Butler agreed that economic poverty puts a health risk on children.
“[Poverty] creates an… unhealthy environment for children, their parents, and their neighbors,” he said in an email. “This can lead to a high-stress environment… which can put our youth at risk.”
The “Long Beach Equity Atlas” notes that while the amount of children living in poverty is alarming, it is important to remember that the statistic is based on the yearly income of their parents or guardians. Therefore, if the short-term goal is to eliminate child poverty, the focus must be on employing parents.
According to the report, 42 percent of adults living in the Sixth Council District do not have a high school education. This is higher than any other area of Long Beach.
According to Sixth District Councilman Dee Andrews’ website, there are a myriad of government and nonprofit organizations dedicated to helping residents.
Organizations like the Wrigley Neighborhood Association sponsor athletic events to promote community, education and non-violent lifestyles. Programs such as these are aimed primarily at at-risk youth.
Butler says that, overall, children in these neighborhoods need safety and security.
“Safe, affordable and healthy homes create stability for our youth and the neighborhoods they live in.”