The cold-weather homeless shelter at Community Hospital was slated to close at the end of this month, but Long Beach is trying to keep it open an extra 30 days as a stopgap measure while it looks for more permanent solutions, officials said Thursday night.
At a community meeting at Brewitt Neighborhood Library in East Long Beach, Councilmember Kristina Duggan said the city is in talks with the hospital’s owner MWN Community Hospital LLC, about extending the city’s lease for the shelter through April. (An MWN representative confirmed the company is talking with the city.)
“With the inclement weather, this is an opportunity to keep some folks housed that would otherwise be outside in the bad weather,” Duggan said, referring to rain and low temperatures that have gripped the city for the past month.
With the winter shelter consistently full since it opened in December, the city has been scrambling to find more space to house people—even temporarily.
The plan to keep Community Hospital’s shelter open comes on the heels of Long Beach canceling a proposed temporary shelter at Silverado Park after intense pushback from community members who complained the shelter would take away scarce park space in the Westside.
Paul Duncan, the city’s Homeless Services Bureau manager, said Thursday that the city is still looking for a more permanent place to house more people.
“We’re not looking at one specific bundling,” Duncan told the room. “Our goal is to have a space that’s more permanent in nature so the people who have been housed here are not displaced back into the streets.” Duncan told the Long Beach Post last week that the city was not looking at any parks in the city to host a shelter.
In the meantime, the city is also setting up 60 beds every evening inside its Multi-Service Center to get people out of the elements at least for the night, but that plan isn’t sustainable because the beds have to be cleared away each morning so people can access social services offered at the center, officials said.
Any extension at Community Hospital is tentative at this point, but Duggan said Thursday’s community meeting was needed early in the process to let residents know what could happen.
Duggan said that she’s received a lot of emails and voicemails from residents supportive of the idea.
The shelter hasn’t had adverse effects on the neighborhood, according to Duggan, who referenced a call from a resident who lives a few houses from the hospital.
“She didn’t even know it was open,” Duggan said of the winter shelter. “When neighbors that are so close don’t know the shelter is open, they’ve done a really good job.”
Some attendees pointed to issues at the shelter such as early plumbing issues and a death in early February that was believed to be linked to a drug overdose. They questioned if there’s been enough transparency with the site.
“Any death is tragic and that’s why we have the emergency declared because people are dying,” said Public Works Director Eric Lopez, who noted that over 100 unhoused people died on the streets last year.
Others attendees at the meeting noted there was an encampment near the hospital prior to the shelter opening and said there wasn’t a noticeable difference in the neighborhood since it started accepting people in mid-December.
Who would pay for extended operations at the shelter isn’t clear yet. Los Angeles County currently pays a nonprofit to run the site, but the county’s winter shelter program typically ends in March.
If the city can’t find outside funding, it could have to pay for operations on top of any additional lease payments to the MWN. In the original agreement with MWN, the city is paying $45,350 in monthly rent.
The city estimated that the Silverado Park site, which the city planned to pay for, could cost as much as $62 per bed per night to run. The council approved about $13 million of funds for homelessness initiatives in early February that could be used for shelter projects.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to correct the name of the hospital property’s owner.
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