Long Beach officials are in negotiations to potentially use Community Hospital in East Long Beach for the city’s winter homeless shelter this year, after the two sites the city had previously used for the temporary shelter became unavailable because of pending development projects.
City officials have been searching for a site for some time after the two buildings that had been used in the past, the old North Long Beach Library and an industrial building in West Long Beach, had both been targeted for affordable or transitional housing.
Community Hospital’s potential use as a winter shelter was the focus of a virtual community meeting held for the Bryant Neighborhood, which includes the former medical center, on Tuesday. Councilmember Suzie Price was in attendance and shared posts on Facebook and Instagram about the meeting, but she could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
Price’s chief of staff, Jack Cunningham, said that it was his understanding that the proposal was “fairly final,” but city officials said nothing has been confirmed.
Jennifer Rice Epstein, a spokesperson for the city’s Health and Human Services Department, which oversees homeless services, said that the hospital is a “key focus” for the city right now, but that the negotiations with the property owner, MWN Community Hospital LLC, had not been finalized.
The discussions come as Community Hospital has been closed for nearly a year. While the facility was once owned by the city, that changed when the City Council approved transferring ownership of the site to MWN Community Hospital LLC in October.
MWN has pledged to turn the Community Hospital site into a wellness campus with an emphasis on behavioral health, but the potential timeline for that project remains unclear.
A representative from MWN could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
As far as the winter shelter is concerned, Rice Epstein said that once negotiations conclude, the issue would be taken up by the City Council, which would likely be in the next few weeks.
“Whatever we choose has to be able to be up and running quickly,” Rice Epstein said.
The winter shelter is typically funded by Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, which pays for shelters in Los Angeles city and county from Nov. 1 through March 31. While five other shelters funded by LAHSA have already opened in the region, Long Beach officials said earlier this month they were aiming for a mid-December opening.
In recent years, the city’s winter shelter has opened in early December. Last year, the city opened its winter shelter Dec. 1.
Rice Epstein said that community members did have questions about using Community Hospital for the shelter, mainly focusing on how it would function.
This year’s winter shelter would require people to go to the Multi-Service Center in West Long Beach to register, and they would then be transported to the shelter site. In the past, the winter shelter has had upward of 125 beds, but this year’s total will depend on the size of the facility that the council approves.
In addition to bed space, the shelter typically offers three meals per day and case management services that can help connect people to permanent housing or help them track down legal documents they need to apply for other programs, Rice Epstein said.
People who stay at the shelter are transported there each day in the late afternoon or early evening and then are transported back to the Multi-Service Center the next morning. Rice Epstein said people staying at the shelter typically remain on-site throughout the night.
“They’re not just coming and going unless they have a reason to,” Rice Epstein said, adding that people can leave the site for things like doctors appointments or work.
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.