Talk centers on Burbank and Glendale's most vulnerable residents

Affordable housing and job training for low-income residents were among the top issues identified during a panel discussion on Wednesday centered around poverty in Glendale and Burbank and led by local elected officials.

Nearly two dozen leaders of local nonprofits joined Glendale City Councilwoman Laura Friedman and Burbank City Councilman Jess Talamantes at the Adult Recreation Center in Glendale to identify major problems and solutions for the most vulnerable residents in the two communities.

The discussion was intended to come just as the Southern California Assn. of Governments gears up for a summit on the "War on Poverty" later this month, 50 years after the passage of the Economic Opportunity Act, as 3 million people in Southern California live in poverty.

Friedman, who helped organize the discussion, said that the number of residents living at or below the poverty level in Glendale, along with the aging population, is growing.

Talamantes pointed out the struggle for returning veterans to find housing and jobs, which he said Burbank addressed last year with a veteran-focused job fair.

While new apartments are "burgeoning like mushrooms" around Glendale, there's a major shortage of affordable units, according to Jerome Nilssen, director of residential programs at Ascencia, a homeless services organization in Glendale.

"I don't see city councils or other urban groups demanding that developers set aside an adequate number of apartments for low-income people," he said.

Michelle Roberts, executive director of the YWCA of Glendale — which serves victims of domestic violence — said a majority of her clients who want to remain in Glendale cannot afford a place, and pointed to the Burbank Housing Corp.'s efforts to fill that gap in Burbank.

But even in Burbank, there's a waiting list for extremely low-income families to obtain affordable housing, said Barbara Howell, chief executive of the Burbank Temporary Aid Center.

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