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Relaxing the winter shelter rules

When Burbank and Glendale went it alone on the homeless winter shelter front — significantly cutting down on the number of beds in the process — there was hue and cry from other shelter operators that the move would leave the masses out in the cold.

But that so far has not been the case. Even with just 50 beds, the Burbank-Glendale shelter has only reached a maximum of 32 people on one night in the three weeks since opening, officials reported this week.

That could bolster a major impetus for breaking from the Los Angeles County system — that the regional shelter was attracting transients from outside Glendale, i.e. non-local homeless. It could also be a result of unseasonably warm weather, which no one expects to last for long.

But homeless service providers this week also noted that they’ve had difficulty finding the referrals to bring them into the shelter — not many transients have dependable means of being reached — and too-strict rules have prevented some who don’t meet the criteria from taking advantage of the overstock of beds.


So shelter operators this week promised to be more flexible to accommodate more homeless. For example, while transients who have drug or alcohol abuse issues are barred from participating, they may be allowed if they can prove they’re in treatment.

While Burbank and Glendale may have been justified in changing the scope of their winter shelter program, it only seems right to adjust an overhauled operation to make accommodations for those who need it.

After all, not every client will be homeless simply as a result of economics, and not every one will fit the narrow definition of a transient who has his/her act together enough to subscribe to a strict regimen of case management. Many chronically homeless people struggle with mental illness, drug/alcohol abuse and other ailments.

Loosening requirements to accommodate those people helps everyone.