Long Beach officials will hold a special community meeting on Thursday, Feb. 23, in response to complaints about the city’s plans to convert a gymnasium at Silverado Park into the city’s second winter shelter for people experiencing homelessness.
Councilmember Roberto Uranga made the announcement Tuesday night after several members of the public showed up to the City Council meeting to vocalize their opposition to the plan, stating that it would strip away a vital community resource from an underserved community in West Long Beach.
“How dare you?” said Brenda Nevarez. “Use the Convention Center. Didn’t Garcia do that with those kids that were here? Use that. Don’t put them in the park where you’re putting us in danger.”
Nevarez was referring to the city’s contract with the federal government that allowed the Convention Center to be used as a migrant shelter in 2021 while the center was not in use because of canceled conventions due to COVID-19 restrictions against large gatherings.
City officials announced earlier this month that the park’s gym would open as an 84-bed temporary shelter that would operate through May to help house the city’s homeless population.
Residents and community advocates said the announcement came with little to no community engagement prior to the city’s announcement, unlike the multiple meetings held prior to the city’s decision to open another winter shelter site at Community Hospital, which is located in a more affluent community in East Long Beach.
Advocates opposed to Silverado Park being used as a host for the second winter shelter organized a protest at the park Saturday and gathered signatures from community members in hopes of blocking the shelter from opening there.
Construction has already begun at the site, with city crews erecting a fence around the gym, which sits a few feet from the park’s playground. During a Feb. 3 press conference, city officials said they anticipated the site to open in about three weeks.
Uranga said Thursday’s meeting would be held to hear the community’s concerns and clear up any inaccuracies about the proposal to use the site as a winter shelter site. He had previously told the Post that he had not heard any major objections to the project.
“As always, communication, communication, communication is key to understanding,” Uranga said. “And apparently, the city did not do enough communicating with constituents to make the program go over more successful than it has.”
The meeting is scheduled for Feb. 23 at 6:30 p.m. at Silverado Park.