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$159,000 OKd to Keep Armories Open for Poor

TIMES STAFF WRITER

A board that distributes federal money Wednesday approved allocating $159,000 to help operate two National Guard armories in Orange County as shelters for the homeless this winter.

The grant will allow the county-managed program to operate for up to 63 nights during foul weather at armories in Fullerton and Santa Ana.

Shelter officials had asked for $191,000 to cover the costs of transportation, food, maintenance and supplies for the money-strapped program, but they said the reduced amount will not hamper operations.

The $191,000 request “would have allowed for operation for 71 nights, but the program has never operated more than 50 nights in past years,” said Robert A. Griffith, deputy director of the county’s Social Services Agency.

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The shelter program, in its fifth year, began operating Dec 1. under criteria that call for armories to open when temperatures drop to 40 degrees or below or 50 degrees when there is a 50% chance of rain. The armories have opened two nights thus far.

William Fogerty, chairman of the Orange County Food and Shelter Board, a nonprofit advisory group that distributes federal emergency money, said funding for the shelters might be re-evaluated if the weather proves worse than anticipated.

“The board has the option to reallocate monies if the need is there,” Fogerty said. “But we’re also hoping that if the program does not operate as many days as planned, that any money left over would be released to other agencies in need.”

The county has been criticized for not using an option recently provided by the state to open armories continually, regardless of weather conditions.

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But officials said that even with Wednesday’s allocation, they lack the money and manpower to open 24 hours.

As it is, the grant may not be enough to cover the costs of security during shelter nights, officials said.

Santa Ana donates half of the cost of providing police officers for the Santa Ana armory, and shelter officials hope to tap support from other cities. The county provides $130,000 to administer the program, but none of that is used to operate the armories.

County officials say private operation of the shelters may be the most cost-effective way to run them. Talks have begun with the Salvation Army to take over managing the program next year.

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