There will be 81 more beds available by the end of the week for those experiencing homelessness, as Long Beach is in the process of opening up this year’s winter shelter at the former Community Hospital site.
The City is attempting to shuttle over the first group of people into the shelter Monday afternoon, according to Long Beach Public Affairs Officer Jennifer Rice Epstein.
Each year, the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) works with five supervisorial districts to fund additional temporary housing focusing on emergency shelter during the coldest and wettest months of the year, as well as hypothermia and exposure prevention among the homeless community.
The shelter is funded by LAHSA through county general funds, Emergency Solutions Grants and Measure H funds.
There are 796 beds provided year-round by the City and partnering organizations, according to a statement released by the City Dec. 19. Long Beach had 3,296 people experiencing homelessness in the city during its 2022 Point in Time Count.
Long Beach will lease the 18,140 square foot property that was formerly Community Hospital from the Molina, Wu, Network, (MWN) Community Hospital LLC for a total of $158,725 in rental costs.
The City will also handle the costs of utilities (based on monthly invoices and taking the difference when compared to previous billing cycles), three security guards, monthly pest control and landscaping ($2,350), monthly maintenance ($4,000), any damages caused during the shelter’s operation and a reimbursement to MWN for startup costs ($25,000).
The location differs each year after the City conducts a search of city-owned and private properties in the summer. According to staff reports, usually about 30-40 locations are vetted for the winter shelter program. Previous locations have included the Atlantic Farms Bridge Housing Community, Long Beach Rescue Mission Thrift Store, Old North Library and the Navigation Center.
A handful of residents stated their concerns about having the winter shelter in their neighborhood, citing incidents of homeless people sleeping in people’s front lawns and a rising number of encampments in the city.
“I’m here to beg you not to turn the Community Hospital into a shelter,” third district resident Jennifer Dees said to the council. “I’ve seen drug-addicted people walking into traffic and my children have seen people urinating in public. When I call the police they say, ‘This is just general mayhem, it’s not an emergency’ … It’s not compassionate to the residents.”
Director of Health and Human Services Kelly Colopy explained that the winter shelter differs from most other shelters in the city since it’s run on a 24/7 basis. This means that people staying at the shelter are not permitted to leave except for work, medical or ADA-compliant reasons. The services offered at the shelter are not available for walk-ups and must be referred by the City’s Multi-Service Center, so there should be no lines, crowds or homeless people roaming the surrounding neighborhoods.
“Anyone who participates in the shelter must come from the Multi-Service Center. The shuttles arrive in the evenings and in the mornings we shuttle [residents] to wherever they need to go,” Colopy said. “Atlantic Bridge Community shelter is going very smoothly and it’s the same people running this shelter.”
The shelter will provide participants with intake and screening services, three meals a day, showers, transportation, case management services and referrals to year-round shelter programs. First to Serve Outreach Ministries will be providing their services to run the shelter and was chosen by LAHSA.
Participants will be chosen from the homeless community in Los Angeles County, with priority given to those who are homeless in Long Beach, according to Colopy.
“I think the important part is finding the right partner to manage the winter shelter, that when done right alleviates all the concerns that we’ve heard here tonight,” councilmember Al Austin said. “We have to exercise and utilize the resources for the needs in front of us today.”