Lancaster seeks more funds to handle surge in homeless population

Citing a wave of homeless people pouring into the Antelope Valley, the city of Lancaster is fighting for a bigger share of the county's allotment of funding for the destitute.

Vice Mayor Marvin Crist said on any given night the Antelope Valley has 12% of the county's homeless population, or 6,500 people, but receives only 2% of the funding from the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority. The service area centered on L.A.'s skid row, by contrast, has 18% of the population and 50% of the funds, he said.

"When it gets cold in Los Angeles it's 30 degrees. Here it gets down to 8 degrees and people freeze to death," Crist said.

The Lancaster City Council last month directed legal counsel to explore action it could take to push for more funding.

On the advice of counsel, the homeless agency could not confirm the city's figures or comment because of the threat of litigation, spokesman George McQuade said.

The homeless authority manages distribution of more than $70 million a year in federal, state and local funds to nonprofit agencies to provide emergency shelter, transitional and permanent housing and other services.

Crist said some of its homeless population is coming by train from Los Angeles. The city and county for decades concentrated homeless services  around skid row in downtown Los Angeles, in part because of opposition from outlying areas to mini-skid rows cropping up in their areas.

Crist said Lancaster wants to build a second shelter to supplement its existing one, the Inn Between, which is running to overflow, forcing officials to open the fairgrounds as an emergency refuge.

"We want to take care of these people. But you don't get to send us your homeless and not send us the money," Crist said.

Much of the money is issued under grants from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. City Manager Mark Bozigian said that if Lancaster failed to apply for the right grants, the homeless agency should help them correct the oversight.

"What we hope is to have them talking to us about how to fix this inequity," Bozigian said.


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