Long Beach is moving forward with opening a new homeless shelter that will operate for three months on West Anaheim Street. The shelter will open just two days before the city’s winter shelter at Community Hospital closes down, Mayor Rex Richardson announced Tuesday morning.
The decision comes after the city hosted a community forum in Drake Park last week, during which officials garnered feedback from residents of multiple neighborhoods about the potential new site at 702 W. Anaheim, where the Long Beach Rescue Mission once operated its thrift store.
“We listened,” Richardson said. “We gathered community feedback. The shelter was met with an overwhelming response of positivity from those who attended the meeting.”
The emergency shelter will open April 28 and will offer 85 beds just in time to fill a void that will be left by the April 30 closure of the winter shelter at Community Hospital. Those already staying at the winter shelter on the Eastside will have priority access to the beds at the new shelter, said Kelly Colopy, director of the Long Beach Health Department.
Colopy said eventually, she expects there will be room for new clients, as capacity could expand at the new shelter and existing clients will likely move into other housing situations.
It was not immediately clear how much the site will cost the city, but officials said the new shelter would be funded by a mixture of city and Los Angeles County funds, which will cover the building lease, shelter operations, services, transportation and security services.
Although many residents voiced their support for the new shelter at last week’s community meeting, some of the criticism that Richardson did receive was from those who pointed out that the new beds would merely be replacing the ones that will be lost on the Eastside later this month.
“Some folks, they’ll say, ‘Hey, you know, this isn’t adding any capacity, because we’re just shifting from winter shelter to this’—that’s actually not true,” Richardson said Tuesday during his weekly homeless update livestream. “We’ve never had—aside from the Atlantic Bridge Community, which is our first year round municipal shelter—we’ve never had a shelter during the summertime.
“It’s a big deal, but it’s not the end result.”
Those who wish to stay at the new shelter will not be able to walk up to the site. They will first have to register through the Multi-Service Center, which is just under a mile away, or through the Mobile Access Center—the MSC’s mobile unit—that operates at multiple sites in the city throughout the week.
The shelter, which will be operated by First to Serve, will be open 24/7 and offer three meals per day, onsite showers and restrooms, as well as an enclosed outdoor area for service animals and pets under 30 pounds. It will also include a shuttle service for residents to access the Multi-Service Center, which is the city’s hub for homeless services.
Those staying at the shelter will also have access to case management services, screening for housing programs, referrals to year-round shelter programs, assistance in obtaining identification and documents as well as connection to mental health and substance use treatment services.
“The thing that I got disappointed about is that it’s only a three-month project,” Mary Simmons, a member of the AOC7 neighborhood organization, told the mayor at last week’s community meeting. “What would it look like to make this, you know, a year-round program? What’s going to happen during the nine months when it’s unoccupied?”
A dire need for affordable housing was also raised throughout that meeting, but in the interim, many residents affirmed that they would like to see the city propose a permanent shelter.
The shelter is expected to operate until July 28, but Richardson has said the city could consider the site for permanent, year-round use. On Thursday, he said it was “too premature” to say whether 702 W. Anaheim St. could become a permanent site, but it’s an option that remains on the table if the temporary site is successful.
“We’ll go find the funding if there’s community support and if there’s a willing partner on the other end,” he said of the site last week. “That’s just how local government works.”
The shelter will open as the city’s first interim, summertime housing operation for people experiencing homelessness at 702 W. Anaheim St. on April 28. It will offer at least 85 beds for unhoused people living in the city until July 28.