Amber Sheikh Ginsberg is a young mom and San Pedro resident who wanted to make a difference and has done so by creating a community dedicated to change.
Here is a partial transcript from our talk with Amber:
“One of the things I love above my day is it really aptly represents the cross section of the community we live in. I feel like I get to experience the breadth and diversity of Los Angeles, of San Pedro, of the South Bay on any given day, and I love that. I love it so much.
So when I first started getting into this advocacy work in this way, even though I’d worked in … poverty alleviation for maybe 15 years, maybe a little longer than that now, when I got involved on more of a grassroots, community level, at first it was just frustrating, to be honest.
Because I thought, okay, what can someone do that lives here? As just a random resident of a city, what can I do? Can I do anything, actually? And at first it took a while to figure out, what can I do? What change can I affect? And then I just started to meet other people who felt the same. Who felt that things could be better, things can be better, things will be better, but we have to stick together. And then more and more people came out of the woodwork, and people that surprised me. Community and business leaders that I thought, “Oh, they could never get away with being on their platform, and talking so strongly about how they want to make things better, and the things that we need to do to change our communities to make that happen.”
And it was like a snowball effect. The more people that came out of the woodwork and said, “We’ve got to do something,” the more that came out of the woodwork and said, “We’ve got to do something.”
And then soon, it seemed like there were more people I was talking to that wanted to support solutions to end homelessness, to make sure that our city and our region was more equitable, to build more affordable housing… Just kind of all of it, and then that group that was kind of angry and holding on to the past, and didn’t want things to change, they just got smaller and smaller. They were still loud, they still are loud, but just got more powerless. And it was such a humbling experience to watch that transition happen in such a short amount of time, if you just gave people the platform to want to be positive and optimistic. That’s all it took.
Another thing I’m very proud of in that group is actually one meeting in particular, I looked around the room and realized about a quarter of the group had, they themselves, experienced homelessness at some point. And that was so powerful to me, and I hadn’t noticed it until then. It’s not how I try to frame the work, but one thing that pointed it out is one woman in particular came up to me around the holidays last year, and said that for the first time in her life, she felt seen and heard. And I remember saying to her, “Well, why? You’re so articulate, and smart.” And she’s like, “Well, I was homeless, and I get to come to these meetings and sit next to Mayor Garcetti’s representative, and I have an equal voice in all of this.”
And for me, that was so impactful, obviously, that I felt like I created that space, but it also made me so protective of that space as well now.
The reality is, we need to keep going so much more, and I do feel the need to constantly tell people that the one thing you can do as an individual is keep saying yes. Is keep saying yes to supportive housing, to affordable housing, actually just to any housing.
So if we can solve this, it doesn’t just solve homelessness, it solves so much more. And I think that’s what excites me, is if we can really get underneath this in a very meaningful way, this region will be safer, more equitable, and just more beautiful for everyone, even if you’re not dealing with homelessness, or you’re not even possibly at risk of it. It will make this place better for you and your children.”