Despite an increase in fights and several police calls at Glendale's emergency shelter, operators say a move to the city's outskirts this year has reduced complaints from residents and retailers.
“At least it’s away from the community,” said Alfred Hernandez, an outreach director for Ascencia, Glendale’s largest homeless services provider and operator of the shelter.
Last winter, when the shelter was housed at the Glendale National Guard Armory near downtown, shop owners and people using Central Park or the Adult Recreation Center lodged numerous complaints about the shelter's clients, the Glendale News-Press reported.
This year, with the 90-day shelter on the outskirts of the city, there have only been two complaints from neighbors, according to a report released by Ascencia and presented to Glendale city officials.
One reason Glendale’s temporary winter shelter moved to an industrial area on Fernando Court this year — away from the armory, which hosted the shelter for most of the past 16 years — was to reduce its effect on the community.
Ascencia officials said they are already working on dealing with the handful of nuisance issues, some of which stemmed from the illegal dumping of couches across from the shelter’s new location in the 400 block of Fernando Court.
“It created a nice little party lounge,” said Ascencia Executive Director Natalie Profant-Komuro.
The city has since removed the couches and Ascencia officials are chipping away at other problems, including loitering and boisterous behavior at a nearby engineering firm and Dinah’s Fried Chicken on San Fernando Road. For the former, officials moved a waiting line for the 80-bed shelter away from the sidewalk, which appeased the engineering firm, and for the latter, outreach workers have been encouraging clients to stop hanging out near the restaurant, according to the report.
But there’s only so much the nonprofit can do to curb loitering in the area.
Many homeless people spend their days near the shelter to ensure a cot for the night and, on top of that, there are few places where the homeless are welcome, according to the report.
Glendale Police Officer Tino Saloomen said at the meeting that the main complaint police have been getting about the shelter is public urination or defecation. He asked whether Ascencia would set up a portable toilet during the day, when the shelter closes.
But Profant-Komuro said that would be the wrong move.
“They become a problem of their own,” she said. “People use them for everything except what they are intended for.”
Profant-Komuro said the restroom facilities at Ascencia’s intake center in the 1800 block of Tyburn Street, roughly a mile from the winter shelter, are available for clients during the day. Workers, she said, will tell that to clients in an effort to fix the problem.
Despite the hiccups, Ascencia officials point to initial success in moving people to more stable housing. Of the shelter's 80 beds, 70 are located on Fernando Court, while 10 are reserved at Ascencia’s year-round shelter on Tyburn Street for people who are employed or developing a housing plan.
Of the 19 people who have stayed in the 10-bed shelter, seven have been moved to year-round shelter, one is waiting for acceptance into a permanent supportive housing program and two are expecting to move to transitional shelter, according to the Ascencia report.
Ascencia officials pointed to their successes at Tyburn as a sign that with access to services and case management, emergency winter shelters can be more than just for survival.
According to the Ascencia report, the shelter has served 248 people. In December, its occupancy rate was 92%.
Levine writes for Times Community News.