Vagabond Inn Downtown will be used as temporary homeless housing for next year

The Long Beach City Council approved a deal Tuesday night to use the inn for the next year as a shelter for unhoused people.

Vagabond Inn Downtown will be used as temporary homeless housing for next year
A person walks in front of the Vagabond Inn at 150 Alamitos Avenue where the city will house up to 60 homeless people at a time over the next year. Photo by Jason Ruiz

Long Beach will lease the Vagabond Inn on Alamitos Avenue to help provide temporary shelter for unhoused people Downtown after the City Council approved a contract to use the motel.

The 60-room Vagabond Inn will be for those people living unhoused between Billie Jean King Library and Lincoln Park to the Promenade, two areas Downtown where encampments can frequently be found.

A $5.3 million grant the city received in December is being used to pay for the lease. The grant is meant to help with Downtown encampments and required a nearby facility to be used for housing, city officials said Tuesday.

Long Beach will pay $110 per night for each room, bringing the nightly total to house people at the site to $6,600, or roughly $200,000 per month, according to the agreement approved by the council.

The lease deal will cover the services offered on-site including case management and mental health support and will also cover daily meals and 24-hour security at the site.

Jason Ruiz has been on strike from the Long Beach Post since March 21, yet he’s still covering city hall without pay. Thank him for his reporting.

But the council’s vote Tuesday came over the objections of some who said the city was paying too much to a bad motel operator to house people, neighboring residents did not receive enough notice of the proposed deal and the lease exempted the hotel from paying city hotel taxes.

“Let’s see if this works,” said Councilmember Cindy Allen, who represents the western side of Alamitos Avenue where the inn is located. “This is a year test. And by all means, if this becomes more problematic then we don’t want that for our residents but I want you to be open to this as a solution.”

Councilmember Mary Zendejas, who represents the area that includes the park, library and Promenade, said that she constantly sees people around the library who need homes and services but the city doesn’t have anywhere to send them.

“This resolution funding will help us in that, to be able to house them,” Zendejas said. “It will allow us to be able to find interim or permanent housing, eventually that’s what we all want.”

After years of increases, the city said in May that homelessness had finally dipped with the most recent homelessness count showing a 2.1% decrease since 2023. That said, there were still 3,376 people living in some state of homelessness when the count was completed in January, according to city data.

Long Beach and other cities have looked to leasing motels, and sometimes purchasing them, as a way to add beds to offer unhoused people living on the streets. Paul Duncan, the city’s Homeless Services Bureau Manager, said the city or county currently owns, leases or uses motel vouchers at nine locations in Long Beach but not all of them are currently operational due to construction.

“We see that a lot of people who might be hesitant to use a congregate shelter setting are much more willing to use motel-type settings where they have their own space, restrooms and control of those,” said Duncan.

A court ruling prohibits cities in California from penalizing people from sleeping outdoors if they don’t have enough beds to house their homeless population but that ruling is being reviewed by the United States Supreme Court.

Duncan said that in addition to this being a city-run facility, meaning city employees will be the ones providing services compared to other models where the city hires a third-party administrator, residents will have to sign agreements to follow certain rules to remain housed at the site.

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While the lease allows for two one-year extensions with the Vagabond Inn, Duncan said that the city has funding for the first year and would have to find more money to continue the program beyond that.

Duncan said the people staying at the inn will be offered services and staff will try to connect them to more permanent housing and rental assistance but there won’t be a limit on how long each person can stay.

“We’re going to work with people as long as it takes to get to permanent housing,” Duncan said.