City Council votes to open winter shelter at Community Hospital

The Long Beach City Council voted Tuesday night to lease space at Community Hospital for its annual winter homeless shelter, which will operate at the site through March.

Under the deal, the city will lease the property from MWN Community Hospital LLC, which assumed ownership of the land in October as a means to reimburse the losses it accrued while trying to reopen the hospital. The city will, in turn, sub-lease the property to a nonprofit to run a shelter of about 81 beds through the end of March.

MWN will be paid about $45,350 per month and an additional $25,000 for startup costs to make repairs and improvements to the facility, according to the city. Winter shelter operations costs are generally paid for by LA County’s homeless service authority.

Persons staying at the shelter will be transported there daily from the Multi-Service Center in West Long Beach, where they’re required to check in to stay at the facility.

Some community members objected to the hospital being used as a temporary shelter site, saying that it would lead to potential safety issues in the neighborhood.

“It seems like wherever we shift this issue, there’s a problem, and now it’s being shifted down the street from me,” said Jim Conti, a resident of the neighborhood near Community Hospital.

Councilmember Suzie Price, who represents the area that includes the hospital said she supported the winter shelter opening there, noting that other areas of the city have hosted the shelter in the past.

“For those who don’t want it in their neighborhood, I’d ask them which neighborhood do they want it in?” Price said.

The city plans for the shelter to have two security guards on the premises 24 hours per day and an additional guard who will be there between 7 a.m. and 6 p.m.

First To Serve Ministries Inc., a Los Angeles nonprofit, will run the facility and provide meals, showers and restrooms. They will also provide services like case management and assistance tracking down legal documents for residents as they try to transition to more permanent housing. Those staying at the shelter will be bussed in daily and required to stay on site unless they have a doctor’s appointment or a work shift they need to attend, city officials said.

The winter shelter is designed to provide temporary relief from the cold weather in Long Beach, which has included overnight temperatures in the low 40s recently.

Long Beach officials had been searching for a winter shelter site for months after the two previous locations, an old library in North Long Beach and an industrial building in West Long Beach, became unavailable after being earmarked for housing developments.

Officials said in late November that the city was focusing on Community Hospital as a potential site for the winter shelter, which normally opens in November and runs through March.

It was available because the hospital closed to the public in December 2021 after operator MWN reported financial losses in the tens of millions due to lower-than-expected patient volumes. To reimburse MWN for those losses, something required by the company’s contract with the city, Long Beach transferred ownership of Community Hospital to MWN for $0.

However, part of that transaction required MWN to reimburse the city for over $715,000 in maintenance costs over a 12-month period, which the city said would help it cover the costs of hosting the shelter this year.

While the council voted unanimously to approve the shelter contract Tuesday, the conversation took an unexpected turn when Councilmember Daryl Supernaw pointed to an April 2020 vote the council took that included a provision that the city and MWN would look for reimbursement opportunities for the $250,000 he gave to help repair elevators at the site in anticipation of it opening as a COVID-19 patient center.

Supernaw represented the district that included the hospital until the recent redistricting process drew it out of his area. He expressed frustration that he and his residents were not notified of the deal until very late in the process and said that as part of the vote, the city should commit to refunding the $250,000 to his district account, which he can use to make infrastructure fixes within his district.

The council approved his request and the city could reallocate those funds as early as February when it does end-of-the-year budget adjustments for any unanticipated revenue left over, which it typically dedicates to infrastructure projects identified by the City Council.

Community Hospital is expected to open as a winter shelter the week of Dec. 19 and end operating as a shelter on March 31.

Editor’s note: John Molina, a co-founder of MWN Community Hospital LLC, is the primary investor in the parent company that owns the Long Beach Post. Read more about the Post’s ownership here

A previous version of this story said the winter shelter would open Dec. 16. The city clarified Wednesday that it intends to open the shelter sometime during the week of Dec. 19. 

Long Beach officials eye Community Hospital as potential site for winter shelter

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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.
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