The old North Neighborhood Library building, closed in 2016, will be replaced by affordable townhomes. File photo by Stephanie Rivera.

The old North Neighborhood Library will be converted into a second temporary winter shelter after the City Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to expand shelter capacity to comply with social distancing requirements brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Bed space will now be shared between the North Neighborhood Library site and a temporary shelter located in West Long Beach funded by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority. Both sites will operate through the end of September.

The two sites will split the 125 beds currently located at the West Long Beach location, but Acting City Manager Tom Modica said officials are seeking other vacant buildings throughout the city to provide more shelter for homeless residents.

“We are working on that right now,” Modica said. “We hope to have another shelter open up later this week and that’s something we’ve put a lot of priority on. We’re still looking for opportunities as well.”

The city received state funding on Tuesday that will allow it to expand shelter capacity past the two sites in North and West Long Beach.

PREVIOUSLY: City Council to consider opening second homeless shelter due to COVID-19

3/24/2020 at 12:49 p.m. | At its meeting this evening, the Long Beach City Council will consider opening a second winter shelter in North Long Beach for six months in order to abide by social distancing orders brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.

If approved, the city’s former North Neighborhood Library at 5571 Orange Ave.—which has been used as a winter homeless shelter in the past—would be used as a shelter from April 1 to Sept. 30.

At its March 17 meeting, the City Council authorized extending the operation of the current West Long Beach winter homeless shelter until Sept. 30.

That facility, which holds 125 beds and is located at 1718-1722 Hayes Ave, will continue to be funded by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority and operated by the nonprofit U.S. VETS.

However, if the city council approves the second shelter, both facilities will split the 125 beds to adhere to social distancing requirements.

“In light of the recent COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent requirement for social distancing, the Hayes Site can longer support the appropriate number of beds and maintain the recommended minimum distance of six feet between persons,” health and economic development department heads stated in a report.

In addition, the report noted that using the vacant site will also help deter crime in light of reports of vandalism and dumping there.

2019 homeless count reveals small increase in Long Beach as populations swell elsewhere

In order for U.S. VETS to operate the North Long Beach facility, the City Council will consider a proposed lease that will include the city paying for utilities and incidentals, totaling an estimated $120,000 for the life of the lease.

The city will use money appropriated in the general fund within the health and human services department on March 17, according to the staff report. It was previously set aside on Feb. 18 as part of the Fiscal Year 2019 Year-End Budget Performance Report.

The council will also have to approve redeclaring a shelter crisis in order to suspend local zoning laws and quickly allow for housing in commercial or industrial areas.

The countywide winter shelter program usually takes place between early December until late March throughout the region.

The city’s first-ever permanent shelter is expected to be open in the summer, though it is unclear how many beds it will provide.

The City Council will meet via teleconference at 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday, March 24 due to the pandemic. The council chambers are closed to the public, but eComments can be submitted by email to [email protected].

Stephanie Rivera is the community engagement editor. Reach her at [email protected] or on Twitter at @StephRivera88.

Jason Ruiz covers City Hall and politics for the Long Beach Post. Reach him at [email protected] or @JasonRuiz_LB on Twitter.