Community Voices
Open image in lightbox
A homeless man waits with his belongings near the intersection of Palos Verdes and 7th St. (From SPT archives 2015.) (photo: John Mattera Photography)

My relationship with San Pedro started 12 years ago, first as a resident and homeowner, and now as a small business owner. One of the many things I’m proud of about our community is how we’ve always taken care of one another. Over the past five years, I’ve been so impressed by how San Pedro has been on a truly transformational journey towards taking care of our own in an even deeper and more meaningful way.

Specifically, I am thinking about how we transformed our conversations about our neediest residents. About how we shifted our conversations from whether we would support solutions for homeless and low-income neighbors to how we would find and support solutions for them. Now that we’ve successfully opened and begun so many projects, it can be easy to overlook or underplay what a transformational shift this has been for our community, but it has made all the difference.

Many of you know me as a homeless advocate. And I am. But I’m not a one-issue person. I genuinely believe that by tackling and even solving homelessness, we are impacting almost every challenging issue our society faces — income inequality, healthcare reform, the mental health crisis, education equity, racism, gender inequality, domestic violence… the list goes on. Even though homelessness is the most obvious manifestation of societal and systemic failures, I firmly believe there is hope.

The annual homeless count is a significant indicator of how we, as a community, are a regional model for practical solutions. The number of San Pedro residents experiencing homelessness has decreased by 36 percent (source: over the past two years. In November 2022, we broke ground on the first of five permanent supportive housing projects in Los Angeles, with San Pedro leading the way.

However, we know that those successes happened in the midst of a pandemic, which exacerbated an already challenged system. As we readjust to life post-pandemic, we all recognize how many things have changed and have needed to be re-centered.

So, I want to take us on a journey each month to hear voices from those on the front lines. People we often talk about but very rarely talk to, and even less rarely hear from.

We will hear from folks experiencing homelessness, people that serve our homeless population, recently housed folks, or those who have family members that this has impacted. We will hear their stories, their struggles, and their successes, and even maybe learn a thing or two about what more needs to be done.

I want all of us to feel the deep humility, the magic, and, to the extent we can in print, the life-altering experience it is not just to hear their stories but to get to know these people — to walk on their journey alongside them. Everyone deserves not only to have their story told, but we all deserve the privilege of hearing it. 

I want us to have deep community conversations. I want us to ask hard questions. Sometimes the answer might be “no,” and sometimes it may be “not now.” Discomfort is part of the ride. But I promise I’ll 1.) try to keep it fun, 2.) keep it calibrated and aligned to where we are, and 3.) I will always, always listen.

Together, I hope we can explore ideas about how any or all of us can be part of this work no matter what we do or wherever we sit. One thing we all share is the goal of making our community a more beautiful, safe, and equitable place for everyone. We take care of our own. 

I hope you’ll join me on this path, wherever it leads. I’ll meet you back here in these pages (and online at next month.  

If you have questions and/or comments for me, please reach out to us here: 

If you are struggling, reach out to Harbor Connects by phone (424) 570-3733 or email spt

Amber Sheikh

Amber Sheikh is a San Pedro resident, mother of two, community advocate, and owner of Sheikh/Impact, a nonprofit consulting firm. She has nearly two decades of experience working in and with organizations solving homelessness and income inequality.