LONG BEACH, Calif. — Cheesy grits and sausage are on the menu at the nonprofit Christian Outreach in Action, or COA.

Intake Supervisor Mike Giard has been cooking and feeding the homeless for 22 years, after arriving in need of a meal when he was homeless.

What You Need To Know

  • Current Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia is leaving his post to run for Congress
  • Six candidates are vying for the chance to be Long Beach mayor 
  • Two current city council members are running for the seat
  • Long Beach is waiting for their latest data from the 2022 homeless count. In 2020, there were 2,034 individuals experiencing homelessness, up from 7% the year prior 

“I was homeless in Sacramento, and I was depressed to the point where I was like, ‘Why even try?’” Giard said.

The nonprofit is on a mission to transform the lives of those experiencing homelessness.

Giard said it saved him, which is why he stayed with COA to give back.

But it’s one of the toughest times he’s seen in his 22 years.

On top of homeless people needing meals, more people are coming to their food bank who are on the brink of becoming homeless.

“People that never thought they’d be in this situation are now unable to feed their families,” Giard said.

Homelessness is a key issue for residents as they vote for mayor in the upcoming primary. The city is waiting on updated stats from their February homeless count, but mayoral candidates speaking at their latest forum believe the numbers have grown.

Candidate and District 3 City Councilwoman Suzie Price said as mayor she’d put funding toward outreach.

“Increasing our street outreach and connection to services,” she said. “I think that’s an area if we focus on it. Like other jurisdictions that have seen a decrease, we’re going to see a decrease as well.”

Price started on the city council in 2014, the same year as Vice Mayor and District 9 Council member Rex Richardson. He said, as mayor, he’d also increase outreach while prioritizing putting a roof over peoples’ heads.

“We also have to continue to build housing and shelter, we need to localize our mental health services, and have a comprehensive approach that thinks about upstream, making sure people don’t fall into the river, and downstream, how do we pull people out of the river,” Richardson said.

While the next city leader has a big job ahead of them, daily meals at COA are helping to keep Long Beach’s most vulnerable afloat. Giard said whoever is elected needs to do more than what’s happening now.

“I don’t see enough programs out there that are doing something about it,” he said, Organizations like COA changed Giard’s life for the better, and he’s hoping more homeless lives can change too with help from the next mayor of Long Beach.