Daily 49er

The homeless in Long Beach will have a place to stay this winter season

The shelter has funding to provide 100 to 140 beds

Photo illustration by Jade Inglada

Photo illustration by Jade Inglada

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While chilly nights this December remind Long Beach residents of upcoming holidays and festivities, for the homeless, cold nights make it difficult to survive living on the streets.

In a unanimous 9-0 vote, the Long Beach City Council approved to authorize the use of the North Long Beach library as a shelter for the homeless population.

The library has closed down and remained vacant since August 2016 and was one of the few locations available. The shelter will be operated by the United States Veterans Initiative.

“US Vets is the largest non-profit provider of comprehensive services to homeless and at risk veterans,” said Kelly Colopy, director of health and human services in Long Beach. “US Vets has extensive experience operating winter shelters.”

The library is located on Orange Avenue and will operate as a shelter from Dec. 6 to March 31, 2018. It is intended for adults only, and individuals will be bused in from the Multi-Service Center located at W. 12th street.

Most residents voiced their support of the shelter, including Heather Miner, a pastor at North Long Beach Christian Church who has worked with various homeless shelters in the past.

“Homeless shelters get people off the streets and into conversations that allow them to access services out of the alleyways and into a place where they can find a movement towards wholeness,” Miner said. “The cold right now is a great blessing to many because it allows them to make that choice to try the do the thing that will get them better.”

Andy Kerr, who grew up in the neighborhood near the library, believes the move is a necessity for the city.

“This really is a regional problem, and we need to work in collaboration with the county,” Kerr said. “We need to get out of the mentality of we are going to support these efforts as long as they’re somewhere else, we need to take ownership in order to really solved these difficult challenges in the community.”

Some residents expressed their concerns and reservations about the location of the homeless shelter.

“I’m not against helping homeless individuals,” said one District 8 Long Beach resident. “My concern as a property owner is regarding the increase in crime, and potential substance abuse increase to a neighborhood that is already impacted.”

While U.S. Vets will operate the shelter, the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority will provide funding.

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