Homeless event needs volunteers

GLENDALE — Organizers of a convention on Thursday meant to connect the city’s chronically homeless population to myriad health and social services say they need an additional 30 volunteers to pull the event off.

While Glendale is one of only four cities in Los Angeles County to have such comprehensive homeless services, it still has difficulty trying to reduce the number of chronically homeless people — those who are often seen on the streets suffering from mental illness, health problems and substance abuse issues.

Homeless Connect Day, which is scheduled to take place at St. Mary’s Armenian Apostolic Church on Thursday, was created in 2005 to bring together a plethora of available services to the chronically homeless under one roof in an inviting, festive environment, organizers said.

“For them it’s convenient, it will help them expedite applications and access services that they normally would have a hard time getting,” said Natalie Profant-Komuro, executive director of PATH Achieve Glendale, the city’s largest homeless services provider.

Not only do geographic distances between service providers present a challenge to chronically homeless people, but poor hygiene also causes many of them to think twice before entering a county government building for services, she added.

“Maybe they haven’t had a shower in a while and feel uncomfortable about walking into the Social Security office,” Profant-Komuro said.

Creating a “low-barrier” environment is a key component of the Homeless Connect Day, which will bring together more than a dozen public and private service providers in a one-stop-shop-type of atmosphere for transients, she said.

The event debuted in Glendale in 2005, returned in 2006, but skipped 2007. This year, organizers need as many volunteers as possible to work the all-day event — from food service to errand runners and client escorts. Escorts will be assigned to a given transient throughout the process as they go from station to station receiving needed services, said Ivet Samvelyan, senior administrative analyst for the Community Development and Housing Department, which is helping the coalition put on the event.

The convention runs from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., and about 20 volunteers have already committed to work various shifts throughout the day, she said. But at least 30 more are needed, and service providers are encouraging anyone who wants to help out to simply show up at the church, preferably for a 7 a.m. training and job assignment session.

The Salvation Army, county Department of Social Services, Mental Health and Public Health, Catholic Charities, Glendale YWCA, public safety departments, hospitals and other service providers are scheduled to take part in the event.

A one-day count in January 2007 found that there were 79 chronically homeless people in Glendale. About 75 homeless people were connected to services at the 2006 Homeless Connect Day, said Jess Duran, assistant director of Community Development and Housing Department.

This year, they hope to increase that to 100, Duran said.

“That’s an ambitious target,” he said.

 JASON WELLS covers City Hall. He may be reached at (818) 637-3235 or by e-mail at jason.wells@latimes.com.

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