Officials are reconsidering a plan to potentially add a homeless service hub along the Metro A Line in Long Beach after a visit last week to Philadelphia, where regional leaders determined such a hub would be too large for the city.

Mayor Rex Richardson and Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn were part of a delegation that visited a “Hub of Hope” in Philadelphia last week to see how the city’s homeless service hub on the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority’s (SEPTA) network has helped its unhoused population.

The “hub” has been pointed to as a potential solution for Metro, which has faced pushback over its practice of emptying trains at the last stop of the night to clean and maintain them before being put back into service in the early morning.

However, both Hahn and Richardson said that, after seeing it in person, it was clear that something like the Hub of Hope was not appropriate for the Willow Street or Wardlow Road stations in Long Beach, where officials had considered placing a similar service for the A Line.

“It’s basically the MSC, but it’s the MSC inside their main station,” Richardson said, referencing Long Beach’s hub for homeless services, the Multi-Service Center in West Long Beach.

Both said that if the LA region is going to pursue something like what Philadelphia has, Union Station in Downtown LA would be better suited to host it.

“It was nothing like what I thought, and it would absolutely not fit at one of the stations in Long Beach and would be more appropriate at Union Station,” said Hahn, who serves on Metro’s board of directors. “That’s where something like what we saw would work.”

Both said in interviews that they’d continue discussions on some sort of solution to help unhoused riders who are riding the Metro system.

Long Beach initiated Metro’s assessment of its end-of-the-line policy in October after the City Council asked Hahn to look at the issue because of complaints from Downtown residents and business owners who said emptying the trains early in the morning was leading to crime and other quality-of-life issues.

A survey conducted by Metro earlier this year found as many as 137 unhoused people exited its trains at Union Station. The same survey found that 39 people were forced off trains in Downtown Long Beach at the First Street station each night.

While Long Beach wasn’t the only city where Metro has sought to establish a hub, the city asked Metro to look elsewhere in April after residents pushed back against the idea of a service hub at either the Willow or Wardlow stations.

A man stands at the Metro A Line’s Willow Street Station, Monday, Feb. 20, 2023. Photo by Brandon Richardson.

At the time, Metro was discussing the possibility of creating a handful of service hubs that would offer things that Philadelphia’s center provides, such as showers, laundry service and outreach workers to help connect people with long-term housing options.

However, the discussion also included the possibility of including overnight sleeping accommodations, something residents opposed because of the stations’ proximity to homes and schools.

Richardson said he liked the Philadelphia model because they appeared to be addressing unhoused riders throughout the day, not just at the end of the night when trains go out of service.

“To me, the challenge here is why are there 40 people coming off the train at 2 a.m.,” Richardson said. “That means something happened during the day, not at the end of the night.”

He said he’d like to see more outreach done during daytime hours when most unhoused services are still open.

Nothing has officially been proposed, but Hahn said there could be support for creating a hub at Union Station and having satellite services along Metro’s network of train and bus lines.

The hub in Philadelphia is integrated into the transit network, but it’s operated by a nonprofit, something she said she favors because it would allow Metro to focus on transportation issues. SEPTA has credited the hub with helping reduce its homeless count by about 35%.

Hahn also pointed to the on-site medical facility that allowed unhoused people to seek medical care, get prescriptions filled and even have their medicines stored in a safe place so they don’t lose them.

It’s operated from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. and provides two daily meals and a space for people to stay where they could be connected to help.

“I think we were kind of missing that in our whole homeless outreach model,” Hahn said. “We’re really focused on beds, shelter, mental health and substance abuse, but I think we’re lacking in places for people to go to relax, take a shower, wash their clothes. Then maybe we’d better be able to help redirect their lives.”

Metro’s board doesn’t meet until the end of September, but Hahn said she believes that every board member considers the issue to be a crisis, and it could be a good time to revisit Metro’s options after the visit to Philadelphia.

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