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Officeless : Struggling Agency to Help the Homeless Grapples With Its Own Shelter Problem

Times Staff Writer

The Valley Mayors’ Fund for the Homeless has lost its Van Nuys office and is now homeless itself.

“Our whole office is out in my driveway,” said actress Marsha Hunt, honorary mayor of Sherman Oaks. Hunt is founder and president of the nonprofit mayors’ fund, which also includes honorary mayors of 16 other San Fernando Valley communities within Los Angeles and the elected mayors of San Fernando and Burbank.

The mayors’ fund operated out of a free office at Marilyn Potter’s Realty on Van Nuys Boulevard until Potter closed the office last Friday to work from her home.

“The filing cabinets, papers, boxes and a desk are all at my house now,” Hunt said.

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Since its founding in 1984, the fund has paid no rent or salaries, devoting all its resources to aiding Valley organizations that help the homeless. It has donated more than $50,000 to such groups, Hunt said.

“We’re praying we won’t have to pay rent,” Hunt said. “We’re proud that so far we’ve done what we’ve done ourselves, without paying a single salary, so that every dollar received goes directly into our work.”

Besides receiving donations, the mayors’ fund has held eight fund-raising events, Hunt said. The organization also distributed 1,700 blankets and sleeping bags to homeless people at Christmastime in 1984 and 1985, she said.

In Hunt’s living room Tuesday, volunteers stuffed and stamped 2,000 invitations to the group’s Aug. 29 fund-raiser at the Los Angeles Equestrian Center.

“My house is a mail room now,” Hunt said. “We used to do this sort of thing out of our office. We had volunteers drop in every day of the week.

“I don’t know what we’re going to do if we can’t find another office. We simply can’t function. We don’t even have a copying machine. That went with the office.”

Among the organizations the mayors’ fund has aided are the Valley Shelter in North Hollywood, the Valley Women’s Care Cottage in Van Nuys and the Valley Rescue Mission in Pacoima.

The long-range goal of the mayors’ fund is to establish what Hunt calls a hospitality center for the homeless, with shower and laundry facilities, a snack bar, medical and counseling services and a television room.

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“This is terribly needed,” Hunt said. “The homeless do so need a place where they’re actually welcome, where they can come and take a shower, get mail and have lockers where they could store their belongings.”

She said she already has created a floor plan for the facility. “It’s just a matter of finding out who could provide the money for it,” Hunt said. “We’d have to do it with government funding.”

But for now, she said, the mayors’ fund must turn its attention toward finding its own home.

“It’s kind of ironic that we’ve suddenly become homeless,” Hunt said. “Now, we’re out in the cold.”

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