Long Beach is in negotiations to buy the Long Beach Rescue Mission’s property at 702 W. Anaheim St. in an effort to further expand its homeless shelter network.
The city is currently leasing the site as a temporary homeless shelter through July. Shelter operations began there late last month, just before Long Beach’s winter shelter at the former Community Hospital property closed.
But both the Long Beach Rescue Mission and the city are looking for more permanent ways to help the city’s unhoused population, and a purchase of the site could help both sides achieve their goals.
Jeff Levine, the executive director of Long Beach Rescue Mission, said there are currently three offers on the table for the property, including one from the city of Long Beach, although none are close to the asking price of $8.1 million.
Negotiations are underway, so neither Levine nor representatives for the city would speak about the specifics of a potential sale. But a deal could be beneficial to both sides as Long Beach tries to secure shelter space under its state of emergency on homelessness and the Rescue Mission looks to expand its services.
On the city’s side, the benefits of purchasing the property are clear. Long Beach’s homeless population grew 4.6% this year, according to the annual homeless count. City officials touted the single-digit rise as a sign of significant progress after last year’s count found the homeless population soared 62% from 2020 to 2022.
Still, Mayor Rex Richardson acknowledged more work lies ahead.
“While the slowdown in growth reflected in the point-in-time count is encouraging, we must remain focused on the urgent need to address the systemic causes of homelessness,” he said when the homeless count results were announced late last month.
The city’s current lease of the Rescue Mission’s former thrift store is a small way to add more capacity to Long Beach’s homeless services network.
Levine, for his part, said he could not discuss the three bids on the table to buy the property, but the Mission finalized a short-term lease with the city as negotiations have continued.
The city is now paying about $19,000 per month for the site, with Long Beach also providing funding for onsite security and transportation. Based on the cost of this year’s winter shelter, it might appear that Long Beach is getting a bargain—it’s less than half the roughly $45,000 in monthly rent the city was paying for a smaller space at Community Hospital. But there are a number of reasons for that price gap, including the difference in locations, amenities offered and necessary repairs—the Rescue Mission property, for example, has a leaky roof, no shower facilities and lacks the semi-private rooms Community Hospital offered.
But the sale negotiations also play a role in the low rent.
The city is “in discussions of purchasing it, so the rental rate that was given was primarily an accommodation,” said George Bustamante, a co-owner of Coldwell Banker Commercial BLAIR, whose staff helped to facilitate a conversation between the Rescue Mission and the city in February.
“Their main effort is to provide housing, so they felt it was an accommodation for the city,” Bustamante added of the Rescue Mission’s motivations.
It’s unclear if or when negotiations will wrap up, but the City Council would have to approve any deal that’s made.
Levine said he hopes the sale of the property will be finalized by the end of the short-term shelter lease. If not, he said, the city will continue to rent it on a month-to-month basis until the property sells.
Rescue Mission’s future
Regardless of who ends up buying the property, Levine said there are several ideas on the table for how to spend the proceeds—though, as he noted, the organization’s board will have the final say.
First, the money could be used for the development of Hosanna House, a proposed 15-bed facility for unhoused men with disabilities, in a strip mall on Anaheim Street. Unlike the organization’s Samaritan House, which also houses men, Hosanna House will be wheelchair accessible.
Progress to develop Hosanna House is already in the works, and the Mission says it already has enough funding from donors to cover three years of operating expenses. Construction costs are estimated at $2 million, with $1 million expected to come from the sale of the thrift store. The Mission hopes to break ground on the facility in December, pending the sale and the board’s approval.
The remaining projects would roll out over the next few years. Levine hopes that with the board’s approval, the organization can lease a medical building near the Mission. This facility would allow for physical therapy, have beds to house both men and women, and serve as a place to address people’s immediate needs.
Leasing the medical facility, Levine said, would allow the organization to better serve women experiencing homelessness by bridging the gap between living on the streets and moving into Lydia House, which is the Rescue Mission’s 50-bed facility for women. He noted that currently, the majority of the women the outreach team meets on the street are not ready for a space like Lydia House, but creating a high-tolerance program would allow for women to come in under the influence and work their way to sobriety and housing.
If approved, the Mission would also like to expand Lydia House. This project would level the small house that currently sits between the administrative offices and Lydia House on Pacific Avenue, just north of Anaheim. In its place, the Mission would build a three-story building with a total of 64 beds.
While negotiations are ongoing, it’s clear that the sale of the former thrift store at 702 W. Anaheim St. will open a new chapter for the Rescue Mission.
“Just with our outreach in the first quarter, we gave away 1,257 meals, provided 1,900 care and hygiene packages, 732 people living in tents received clothing,” Levine said. “It’s just exciting for us thinking about when we sell that property what we will be able to do in terms of development of our own programs.”