LONG BEACH (KABC) -- A gym in Long Beach that was recently turned into a temporary homeless shelter by the city is facing criticism from community members who say the transformation was done without public input.
On Friday, the city announced the gym at Silverado Park in west Long Beach will be used as an emergency homeless shelter until May 2023.
A rally was held Saturday afternoon where a group expressed its concerns.
They said people weren't made aware of the city's plans and believe the gym-turned-shelter is located just feet away from a children's playground.
They said children who use the gym will now only have access to the basketball courts outside the building.
"We experience extreme park equity in this part of the town and since this is the only one on this side of the town, and it's being taken away when there are other facilities across the city where it could be placed, that's not operating in equity," said Tony Bell, a concerned resident in Long Beach.
Mayor Rex Richardson issued the following statement, encouraging people to learn more about the project.
"We are going all in on the homelessness response, which means needing to bring more people off the street. I encourage anyone concerned to learn more about our comprehensive response, the processes set up to ensure the shelter can successfully co-exist with park programming, and the improvements we are bringing to Silverado Park later this year."
The city of Long Beach issued the following statement:
"Long Beach has a declared homelessness emergency and providing additional shelter spaces is a critical part of the response. Earlier this year, the City set up a Winter Shelter in East Long Beach at Community Hospital, yet additional capacity is needed during these winter months.
Silverado Park will be set up for approximately 4 months - no gym programs are being affected and programming for the summer will be unaffected. Silverado Gym was utilized successfully as a temporary shelter during the COVID response. Security will be on site 24/7, patrons will arrive and depart via a shuttle and no walk-ups will be accepted. The fencing and screening being installed will allow for a safe place for shelter residents to be outside and allow for both park and shelter uses to co-exist.
We will be hosting a meeting later in February to hear community concerns and work on potential solutions to accommodate both shelter residents and park visitors.
The community can learn more about homelessness in Long Beach, the City's response to homelessness and how to get involved by visiting www.longbeach.gov/homelessness. For the latest news on the emergency response, visit the News section on the website."