City could convert 78-room North Long Beach motel into temporary housing

Long Beach could acquire another motel to serve as temporary housing for the city’s homeless population if the City Council approves a $16.6 million deal to purchase the Luxury Inn in North Long Beach.

The city has been expanding its ability to shelter homeless residents by using funding from the state-run Project Homekey and county-run Project Roomkey to convert motels into temporary housing. Purchasing the Luxury Inn could add 78 rooms to the over 300 temporary units the city has added through both programs since 2020.

City homeless outreach workers say the approach has shown promise because people living on the streets have been more willing to take shelter in private rooms than in congregate living spaces where there is less privacy and more restrictions.

The Luxury Inn purchase would be funded partly by a $30.5 million grant that the city was awarded last month. The city also plans to use the money to construct 30-35 modular homes and operate the two sites.

Under the deal that the council could approve Tuesday night, the city would spend about $18.5 million of the grant to purchase the motel and renovate things like air conditioning, electrical and heating systems. The city is expected to contribute an additional $2.85 million to the project from its general fund as a condition of its grant.

The city set aside millions in Measure A funds in the recently approved city budget to help buy another motel and to expand a new program that sends health department employees instead of first responders to calls about people experiencing homelessness.

The Luxury Inn in the 5900 block of Long Beach Boulevard in Long Beach on Monday, Sept. 12, 2022. Photo by Thomas R. Cordova.

The grant also provides about $3.7 million in operating expenses for the first three years at the site, which is estimated to be about $1.9 million annually. However, the city could have to come up with funding for ongoing operational costs or other maintenance issues at the site after this grant is exhausted.

A requirement of participating in the Homekey program means the city will have to reserve the site for temporary homeless housing for the next 15 years, according to a city staff report.

A city spokesperson said about $5.6 million of grant money is anticipated to be left over for the modular homes, which the city says it plans to build at the Multi-Service Center in West Long Beach.

Long Beach announced earlier this year that the number of people experiencing some form of homelessness had increased by 62% since 2020. The 2021 count was canceled because of COVID-19.

If the City Council approves the purchase Tuesday night, the Long Beach Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees the city’s homelessness programs, is expected to come back to the council at a later date so it can award a contract to a service provider that will oversee the property and provide supervision and services at the site.

Homelessness increased by 62% in Long Beach since 2020

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Jason Ruiz has been covering City Hall for the Post for nearly a decade. A Long Beach resident, Ruiz graduated from Cal State Long Beach with a degree in journalism. He and his wife Kristina and, most importantly, their dog Mango, live in Long Beach. He is a particularly avid fan of the Dallas Cowboys and the UCLA Bruins, which is why he sometimes comes to work after the weekend in a grumpy mood.