homeless shelter press conference (copy)

Vice Mayor Dee Andrews talks in January at a press conference announcing purchase of property in north Long Beach for a year-round shelter for the homeless. Ninth District Councilman Rex Richardson, who facilitated the purchase, listens in the background.

A site has been chosen for the annual winter emergency shelter in the industrial West Side of the First Council District, and it is expected to open on Dec. 1 — on time for the first time in several years.

Los Angeles County pays for a winter shelter for homeless people in each of the five supervisors' districts, with the Fourth District (represented by Janice Hahn) typically located in Long Beach. Difficulty in finding an appropriate building often has hindered opening the shelter. For the last two years, it has operated in the vacated North Branch Library on Orange Avenue in the Eighth Council District.

This year, city-owned property at 1718 Hayes Ave. has been selected. The industrial building is about two blocks south of Pacific Coast Highway, west of Santa Fe Avenue.

City Council will be asked at its Tuesday, Nov. 12, meeting to lease the property to United States Veterans Initiative, also known as U.S.VETS of Long Beach, from Dec. 1 to March 31. U.S.VETS has operated the winter shelter for the last two years under a contract with the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority.

The city won't charge rent for the building, but will be reimbursed $13,750 to cover cost of utilities. U.S.VETS will be responsible for that payment, using money from the contract with the county.

U.S.VETS, in cooperation with the city's Health and Human Services Department's Multi-Service Center, offers services to people staying at the emergency shelter in an attempt to get them off the street. The agency has had some success moving homeless military veterans into housing at Century Villages at Cabrillo, not far from the new shelter site.

The shelter is expected to have more than 100 beds, and will serve two meals a day. Showers will be provided, and referrals to health services are common. The shelter is open from 5 p.m. to 7 a.m. and staff stays on site overnight.

If past policies are followed, people will be bused into and out of the shelter from designated pickup and drop-off sites, and no walk-ups will be allowed.

This is the first time in several years that the shelter has been located near downtown Long Beach; it was set up in a warehouse in north Long Beach's Ninth District before going to the library site.

Earlier this year, the city announced it was purchasing that same warehouse site at 6481-6845 Atlantic Ave. The property also houses an Eddie's Liquor store and one home.

A company called KBA6845, LLC, says it has a valid lease on the warehouse for a marijuana grow facility, although the building currently is vacant, and has said it would fight the city over possession of the property. But city officials are moving forward with plans for a permanent shelter and homeless services campus there.

Acting Deputy City Manager Teresa Chandler said this week that Phase I of the shelter project could open there in June 2020. That phase will consist of four modular units at the back of the property creating shelters for men, women, families and a single night "respite room" shelter. There will be accommodations for those with pets as well.

"We're still working on Phase II, which will be what happens there longer term," Chandler said. "Councilman (Rex) Richardson conducted a community meeting last Wednesday to get community input regarding public safety, what the campus should offer and more. We'll continue to work toward that vision as we start with Phase I."

Chandler said the liquor store will close by January and the house will be vacated by then as well.

Harry Saltzgaver can be reached at hsalt@gazettes.com.

Harry has been executive editor of Gazette Newspapers for more than 26 years. He has been in the newspaper business for more than 35 years, with experience on both weekly and metropolitan daily papers in Colorado and California.

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