For the seventh year, the Long Beach Rescue Mission, of which Lewis is CEO, will run the shelter, which opens today. This year, the shelter moves from a 12,000-square-foot industrial warehouse in North Long Beach to new digs at 702 W. Anaheim St., the former site of Jesse James' West Coast Choppers.
"We should be ready to go by morning," Lewis said. "We're lining up cots right now."
Although Lewis admitted he was exhausted and stressed out, for the third straight year the shelter will be able to open on time, just 1 1/2 weeks after the City Council cleared the way with its annual declaration of a shelter emergency.
The winter shelter will stay open nights until March 1, two weeks earlier than usual due to budget cuts. The number of beds also will be reduced from 200 to 140 because of the budget, Lewis said.
With a rainy weekend forecast, Lewis said, "I would expect a larger than normal opening crowd."
Last year, with mild clear weather on opening day, the shelter only checked in 46 guests. That number was also affected by the Occupy Long Beach movement, which was feeding the homeless and they were allowed by cops to sleep on sidewalks adjacent to Lincoln Park. That is not the case this year.
Generally, the shelter's numbers are determined by the weather and the time of month. Because most of the city's homeless receive government assistance at the start of the month, they are more likely to spend the first week or so at motels.
Last year, Lewis said the shelter only exceeded 150 guests about six or eight times.
As always, the shelter doesn't accept walk-ins at the shelter site.
Those wishing to stay must take shuttles provided by the shelter.
Also, no carts are allowed on the shuttles or at the shelter.
On Thursday and Friday as the rains fell, the city's homeless community was on its own to find shelter. The Rainy Day Shelter program, run by the Long Beach Area Coalition for the Homeless, currently has no site for its program.
The First Congregation Church in downtown Long Beach is no longer available. With the pending retirement of the church's pastor, Jerry Stinson, the future plans for day-time shelter for the homeless remain unclear.
Arlene Mercer, with the Rainy Day Shelter, said while the group has funds for its program, it has yet to find space.
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