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Long Beach considers tent villages for unhoused people

Long Beach is considering the creation of tent villages for the unhoused after falling behind schedule on a shelter construction and motel conversion.

“We’re waiting for housing, but it’s taking forever,” Chelsea Walker, who is experiencing homelessness, said. 

Walker and her friends have been living in tents for months, dreading cleanups that force them to move every two weeks — all while waiting on housing vouchers in Long Beach. 

“There is too many of us falling through the cracks, there’s too many,” said Tyese Drenek, who is also experiencing homelessness. 

The city has seen delays in building 33 tiny homes next to the Multi-Service Center on the westside and plans to convert the Luxury Inn motel into housing. 

Long Beach Homeless Services Advisory Committee Chairperson Julie Lie said tent villages are a viable option.

“The problem is not going to go away if we don’t do something different,” Lie said. 

Tent villages can pop up in three weeks and at a fraction of the cost of motels and tiny homes. A city-funded project in Tampa, Florida, fosters “safe sleep” sites that are fenced off for tents with security and a code of conduct for its residents. The project also offers services such as job training and basics like daily meals and laundry.

“We need bathrooms and running water just like everybody else,” said Rachel Callahan, who is also currently unhoused.

Lie said unhoused people were given the option of congregate shelter but chose to walk away because it is not healthy for them. 

Callahan prefers tents to shelters because she said she is bipolar and needs space. She is not alone. 

“I can’t stay in a shelter. I’ve been through a lot of trauma,” Walker said. 

Drenek thinks tent villages might be the missing link to get them back on their feet.

“If there was a place where I could keep my stuff and I had running water, I could get a job and take care of myself,” she said. 

Long Beach City Council Member Mary Zendejas asked for a report to explore all possible avenues for the city’s unhoused issue. The report is expected within a few weeks, but there’s no timeline for when the city might consider the tent villages as a real option.

Source: NBC Los Angeles

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