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Agency Acts to Bolster Aid for Homeless : Transition: Apartment building will augment city’s two private shelters and help people return to mainstream life.

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Faced with hundreds of homeless in a city with just two private shelters, the Glendale Housing Authority has moved to buy an apartment building and use it as a haven for those without a home.

The decision complements plans to open a service center providing job training and financial management help early next year.

The agency will spend $425,000 in federal low-income housing funds to buy a 68-year-old building and an adjacent vacant lot at 636-700 E. Orange Grove Ave. The structure, red-tagged after the Northridge earthquake, will be either repaired or rebuilt.

The goal is to round out Glendale’s growing web of homeless services with low-priced apartments for people re-entering mainstream life.

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“Homelessness is growing in Glendale and this is another part of our strategy to address it,” said Paul Bandy, director of social services for the Salvation Army in Glendale and co-chairman of the Glendale Homeless Coalition.

“On any given night, there are between 240 and 360 homeless people living on the streets and in their cars. The problem is really growing among the people who are at risk of becoming homeless, those who are one paycheck away from the street. We feel there may be up to 10,000 people in the city like that.”

Those who deal with the problem say most of the city’s homeless people are “invisible"--families and individuals whose lives have been derailed by the loss of a job or other factors.

Studies by the homeless coalition, a group made up of city officials, charitable organizations and businesses, show that more than 90% of Glendale’s homeless are not drifters but people with roots in the community.

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Madalyn Blake, the city’s housing director, said the new apartments will be the final part of a three-step, highly supervised program designed to help people become independent again. To qualify for the apartments, applicants must succeed in the first two steps, both of which are currently in development: a temporary emergency homeless shelter that gets them off the streets, followed by a transitional housing program that lasts from one month to two years.

“It’s important to make the distinction that these units will not be for the homeless,” Blake said. “When people come out of transitional housing, they need an affordable place to live. By the time they get to this point, they will be working and ready to be self-sufficient. They will have gone through a rigorous program.”

There are also several programs run by private, nonprofit organizations that serve similar functions. Most of the efforts have gained momentum since 1992, when the homeless coalition published a report called “The State of the Streets,” documenting the homeless problem.

Before that, many officials concede, the city’s conservative politics made homelessness a taboo issue.

“I used to think a homeless person was a bag person, someone sleeping on a bench, but now I see that it can happen to anybody,” said Councilman Larry Zarian, chairman of the housing authority.

Zarian, who said he remains “staunchly opposed to long-term, welfare-type solutions,” said he supported the new apartment project. “These apartments are not tenements. It is a helping hand that says, ‘I will help you if you help yourself,’ ” he said.

In recent months, several citizens have raised objections to the city’s 40-bed emergency homeless shelter and service center slated to open next year on Fernando Court, and some have said Glendale risks becoming a “magnet” to homeless people from outer areas.

“That hasn’t happened with the services we’ve offered so far,” Bandy said. “And I don’t think it will happen, because we’re not in the business of just handing out services for nothing. We require a commitment from people to make an effort to get out of the cycle of homelessness.”

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Glendale Homeless Services

Glendale is buying a vacant apartment building and turning it into temporary housing. In addition, a service center will provide short- term emergency housing for the homeless when it opens.

Source: City of Glendale


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