A Los Angeles nonprofit that has previously worked with Long Beach on homeless services will take over running the city’s transitional housing facility in a converted Best Western hotel, which made headlines recently for the number of people who died after enrolling in the program.

The city opened the nearly 100-room facility on Long Beach Boulevard (known as PHK because state Project Homekey funding was used to buy it) in 2021 and brought in Orange County-based Illumination Foundation to operate it. That nonprofit bowed out at the end of its contract last month, so the city is staffing the place with its workers and temporary help until a new operator moves in.

The Long Beach City Council voted Tuesday night to give a one-year, $3.17 million contract for PHK operations to First to Serve, which has overseen the Atlantic Farms Bridge Housing Community since 2022 and was chosen last year to run the city’s temporary emergency shelter on West Anaheim Street.

The converted hotel has had its share of troubles, with employees complaining of understaffing and a lack of appropriate resources for clients with medical needs and substance abuse issues.

Support watchdog journalism

Who has eyes on City Hall? We do. The Long Beach Post is now a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. Donate now to support independent accountability journalism that cuts through the political spin.

Over the past two years, at least 14 people who were enrolled at the facility have died. City officials said the high number of deaths was due to the criteria used to refer clients, which include especially vulnerable residents who tend to be older or have chronic health problems. The Illumination Foundation’s request for more medical and addiction counseling services went unmet before the nonprofit decided to pull out, according to emails obtained by the Long Beach Post.

The city will be putting more funding into the facility under the new contract — the agreement with Illumination Foundation allotted nearly $2.5 million per year, whereas the proposed new contract would spend up to $3.17 million, according to city information. Because a new operating contract has not yet been made public, it’s unclear whether it includes more staff or services or how it might differ from the previous contract.

First to Serve officials could not immediately be reached for comment Wednesday. City Council members approved hiring the new operator without any discussion.