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Burbank officials review progress of homelessness plan

La Quentan McGuire, Ambassador Team Leader, talks with a homeless man and guides him to facilities t
La Quentan McGuire, ambassador team leader, talks with a homeless man in March and guides him to facilities that can help him in the Burbank downtown plaza area on East Palm Avenue. The ambassador program is one of the ways Burbank is addressing the city’s homelessness issue.
(File Photo)

Burbank officials have seen some success with the homelessness plan the city implemented in 2018, but they say more needs to be done to make a bigger dent in the problem.

Marcos Gonzalez, grant manager for Burbank, updated the City Council on Tuesday regarding the progress of the city’s three-year plan to help those who are homeless receive support, whether it’s housing assistance or mental health care.

Gonzalez said Burbank’s homeless population increased by 41% — from 200 people last year to 282 this year — despite the outreach and support services available to those who need them.

Contributing factors to the rise in the homeless population both in Burbank and countywide are mental illness, substance abuse, people who have recently lost their housing and a housing shortage, Gonzalez said.

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Most of those who are homeless in Burbank are unsheltered, either living in a vehicle or on the streets. Those who are sheltered either live in an emergency shelter or transitional housing, Gonzalez said.

The city’s homelessness plan takes a multipronged approach to address the issue, which includes affordable housing, public outreach, mental-health awareness, temporary housing and homeless prevention.

Gonzalez said the city’s ambassador program in the downtown area has already seen some success.

He said ambassadors recently helped a man who was chronically homeless for more than a decade move into an emergency-care facility, and the man is currently in the process of finding permanent housing.

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Gonzalez said the program is being expanded to other areas in Burbank.

The council is also considering a nuisance ordinance that would allow law enforcement to remove homeless encampments from public property and store any valuable belongings at a temporary storage facility, which for the time being is at the city’s public works yard.

Gonzalez said city officials are working with local nonprofits to move the storage facility to a more permanent location.

He added that the proposed ordinance is not meant to punish those living in homeless encampments but to allow service outreach to be made and increase public safety.

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