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Burbank approves homelessness plan, but funding is still in question

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The three-year homelessness plan looks to address the issue from multiple angles, which includes housing, mental health awareness and homeless prevention.
(File photo)

Burbank City Council members approved a three-year plan they hope begins to address the homelessness issue in the city.

Council members voted unanimously during a meeting on Tuesday to have city staff implement a multipronged approach to the issue, which includes addressing mental-health awareness, temporary housing, affordable housing, community outreach and homeless prevention. Councilman Jess Talamantes was absent from the meeting.

For the record:
3:40 PM, Dec. 13, 2017

An earlier version of this story incorrectly named cities affected by the sales tax. It’s been updated to reflect this.

Marcos Gonzalez, grant coordinator for Burbank, said the city will be using a $50,000 grant from Home for Good Funders Collaborative, a partnership between the United Way of Greater Los Angeles and the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, to help develop each of the seven strategies Burbank will be using to tackle homelessness.

Though there are roughly 57,800 homeless people in Los Angeles County, Burbank has about 230 homeless people, Gonzalez said.

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Burbank created a Homeless Steering Committee a few months ago and held its first meeting on Oct. 26. The 28 committee members include residents, community leaders, city and county officials and representatives from homeless-service providers, businesses and healthcare providers, Gonzalez said.

From that meeting, seven strategies were identified as the best ways to start addressing the issue, with the first being developing storage facilities and transportation for the homeless.

“The cause of many of the concerns and frustration of residents and businesses is the unattended homeless property seen around Burbank,” Gonzalez said. “By providing a safe place to store personal belongings and providing transportation, we can begin to reduce issues surrounding unattended items in the public right of way.”

The next approach is to work with community partners to improve the health and safety of the homeless population and to educate them about the health services they can access, Gonzalez said.

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Another strategy looks to build temporary housing, which can have a significant impact on the number of homeless people on the streets. That impact was evident in 2015, when neither Burbank nor Glendale had a winter shelter, Gonzalez said.

Along with temporary housing, the committee also identified affordable housing as a key strategy. Gonzalez said the city has created 316 affordable units throughout the year, but he added that the city needs to find new ways of creating these types of housing units, whether through policy decisions, funding opportunities or land use.

Another strategy involves continuing to provide community outreach to residents to make them aware of ways they can help and talk to homeless people. Along with that, Gonzalez said various nonprofits that serve the homeless and less fortunate should coordinate their efforts to provide the best possible service to those who need it.

Gonzales said helping those who are on the verge of homelessness is a strategy on which the city will focus. He added that programs that can provide temporary assistance to help individuals or families during their time of need will help reduce the homeless population.

The last strategy is enforcing public health and safety regulations with homeless people, which involves educating them about where they can and cannot stay and letting them know about the services available to them, Gonzalez said.

Though there is a multilayered approach to try to solve the homelessness issue, Gonzalez said the biggest hurdle to implementing these strategies is figuring out how to fund them.

He said Measure H, a ballot measure approved by Los Angeles County voters during the March 2017 election that created a quarter-cent sales tax to fund homelessness programs, is expected to bring in $258.9 million during the 2018-19 fiscal year, which is down from the $355 million the measure was initially projected to generate.

The revenue decrease is due to the sales tax being implemented on Oct. 1, rather than July 1.

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However, Gonzalez told the City Council that Burbank, which is expected to generate about $8 million during the 2018-19 fiscal year through Measure H, will not be receiving any of the funds the city contributed to the pot. Instead, Burbank and every other city in the county will need to apply to get any funding, which is how the measure was laid out.

anthonyclark.carpio@latimes.com

Twitter: @acocarpio


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