Los Angeles Country Metro board members were critical of Long Beach on Thursday after learning that the city had expressed it may not be interested in having a homeless service hub within its borders.
The idea for a homeless hub came after Long Beach had asked the transit agency in October to re-evaluate how it clears its trains at the end of the night at the city’s Downtown platform, which some city officials, residents and business owners said was contributing to Long Beach’s growing homeless population.
However, a proposed hub at the Willow Street station that could potentially provide shelter space, access to showers, phone charging and 24-hour navigation to other services in the region has been resisted by the city, which has asked the agency to look at other stations outside of Long Beach.
“Those who are impacted at the ends of our lines need to step up,” said Director Paul Krekorian. “If the city of Long Beach is concerned about the impacts at the end of their line, they can’t then come to a transit agency and say, ‘Fix this problem, but fix it the way that we like.’”
Krekorian, though, questioned if it was the agency’s role to help solve homelessness in the region, saying that the county and cities should be trying to address the root causes of it before people end up at Metro stations, buses and trains.
He pointed to a report given to the board earlier Thursday morning that said out of 1,000 people who had been “connected to services,” just 41 had accepted any form of housing from outreach done on Metro.
Krekorian, who serves as the president of the Los Angeles City Council and represents North Hollywood, noted that his district includes the end-of-the-line stop with the second highest number of unhoused people exiting trains each night, with 112 people on average, according to a recent Metro survey.
Metro should temper its expectations, he said.
“We’ve built hundreds of beds within a stone’s throw of that station,” he said. “But every single night, that station is ringed with tents and encampments.”
Metro analyzed the Willow Street and Wardlow stations in Long Beach for a potential hub because they’re the only two stops in Long Beach where the agency owns land, which happens to be in the form of parking lots. Trains also stop at the two stations before the agency’s rail maintenance yard, where the trains go after they’re emptied of passengers at the end of the night.
However, last week, City Manager Tom Modica said that the city has asked Metro to look elsewhere—specifically the Del Amo Station, which is north of the Long Beach border in unincorporated LA County—for the potential building of a hub.
The city has cited concerns that were raised during a community meeting in March where residents said the Willow and Wardlow stations were not appropriate due to their proximity to homes, schools and parks. The Del Amo Station is in the middle of a commercial and industrial area.
Modica also said that the city would want to know more about the operations of the hub, like who would pay for it, how the services would be provided and what happens the following morning with people who stay there overnight.
On Thursday, Tyler Bonanno-Curley, Long Beach’s manager of government affairs, told the board that the city wanted Metro to include Del Amo in its analysis so the city could have more information to present to community members in the future.
Director Holly Mitchell said Thursday that the Del Amo Station doesn’t make sense because to her, a hub should be centrally located and in an area where people normally congregate.
“Frankly, the Del Amo Station isn’t that at all,” Mitchell said.
When Mitchell found out that Long Beach hadn’t proposed to be a financial partner in creating the hub, she said that it might be time for the agency to look at other jurisdictions “that are ready to step up and be true partners.”
The discussion Thursday was an update to an ongoing discussion Metro has been having about homelessness on its network and how the agency might address it.
The board could vote later this year to declare a state of emergency, similar to what the county and cities like Long Beach and Los Angeles have already done, to allow it to execute contracts for homeless services in the future.
It’s also looking at creating service hubs at other points across its rail system.
A Metro survey conducted earlier this year found that Union Station, where 137 unhoused people exit the trains each night, and the North Hollywood stations were the two most affected stops in terms of average number of unhoused people exiting the train every night.
Long Beach had the sixth highest number of unhoused people found exiting at the end of the line, with 39 unhoused people leaving trains each night, out of the 12 stations surveyed by Metro.