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People First: Voices of Homelessness

The City of Long Beach has many talented employees that play various roles within the organization. Though most people wouldn’t realize that they may cross paths with a City employee while doing their local shopping or when dropping off their child at school, these staffers not only work for the City of Long Beach, but they also make up the fabric of our community as residents. We want to introduce you to one City employee that goes the extra mile in his work, Laath Martin.

Martin is Public Information Specialist for our Public Health Emergency Management team with our Health and Human Services Department (Health Department). As you all may know, our Health Department has been very busy these days. The entire team have gone above and beyond, responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, mpox and most recently the local emergency on homelessness.

Martin has been assigned to help respond to the City’s public health homelessness efforts. In addition to developing content for the City's response, he has been working closely within the Homeless Services Bureau to be our point person for daily information on our Multi-Service Center and working in the field with our homelessness outreach staff. This is where he began to follow the stories of our neighbors experiencing homelessness.

Martin has been building relationships with several community members experiencing homelessness, as well as the staff and partners who work to support them, who were willing to share their stories with him. Martin is also a photojournalist and through his daily interactions with these individuals, he began to develop what we call our, “People First: Voices of Homelessness” column on our Citywide homelessness emergency response efforts.

This project is very important to the City of Long Beach because beyond our commitment to providing the services and support to help people experiencing homelessness, we are also committed to reminding our community that families, older adults, youth, individuals, people like you and I are experiencing homelessness. We want to help destigmatize some of the negative perceptions of homelessness and people experiencing homelessness. And through this series we hope to give you an inside look into the lives of the individuals that have worked hard with the City and its partners to get connected to life-changing services.

Read more about Laath Martin below and enjoy our new InsideLB column “People First: Voices of Homelessness.”

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Meet Laath Martin

Laath Martin HeadshotMy name is Laath Martin and I’m a documentary photographer, instructor, and proud City of Long Beach employee. Over the last three years, my role in the City has been developing and implementing communications strategies in response to our local emergencies, including COVID-19, mpox, and now the City’s homelessness emergency.

Of the many things I’ve learned during my time at the City, one of them has been the importance of storytelling and the role it plays in a successful and equitable response. It helps to humanize the work. Through stories, not only do we get to support the community, but we get to represent them. At the end of the day, we as City employees are community members who share similar experiences, fears, hurdles, and successes. When we communicate, we validate those shared experiences.

This series, “People First: Voices of Homelessness” will do just that ---- focus on the human side of this work. People experiencing homelessness, the staff and partners dedicated to supporting them are, first and foremost, humans with unique stories. They are friends, parents, siblings, cousins, neighbors, artists, entrepreneurs, volunteers, veterans and survivors with agency in their journey.

Homelessness is a nuanced, complex issue, but it does not define someone. Despite this, sometimes we blur the line between the concept of homelessness and the person who is experiencing it. This series will refocus that line and highlight the people and the bonds formed in the process.