City may go it alone on future winter homeless shelter

CITY HALL — Glendale officials are looking into closing the door of the annual winter homeless shelter to outsiders in an effort to better control its impact on neighboring residents and businesses.

On Tuesday, the City Council endorsed a plan that would give up a Los Angeles County-funded winter shelter in favor of one that is supported with local money, allowing city officials to keep the client list open to only Glendale and Burbank residents. People without a stable address are considered residents of the area where they spend the majority of the year.

The Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority has already renewed its contract with Eimago, Inc., , a subsidiary of the Los Angeles Union Rescue Mission, to run this the winter shelter this year at the Glendale National Guard Armory, according to a city report.

But that could change if the City Council eventually agrees with city officials that a locally operated shelter would better serve the local homeless population, instead of being a regional intake center.

"I think we should make it clear to LAHSA that, OK, we'll do the regional program another winter, but let's put it on the record that this is the last winter that Glendale is going to be a regional center because the cost to the community is just become too great," City Manager Jim Starbird said Tuesday during a joint meeting of the Housing Authority and City Council.

Officials saw an increase in the number of homeless people who visited the shelter during the 2009-10 season from the previous year.

The program counted 914 people and 78 families, according to a city report, up from 549 individuals and 27 families the year prior.

About 11.1% of the people served at this year's shelter resided in Glendale; 3.2% were from Burbank; 4.9% were from Pasadena and 85.5% said they were from other areas, including Los Angeles, according to the report.

Glendale police reported a jump in the number of arrests and incidents at the Glendale armory during the shelter period last winter, according to a city report. Nearby businesses also reported loitering and littering.

Police arrested 122 homeless people while the winter shelter was in operation. Of those, 53 were using the shelter. Firefighters also responded to 46 calls that involved the shelter and another 79 calls involving homeless people at that time, according to a city report.

Eimago was also criticized in the report for not strongly encouraging clients to get case management, and for not enforcing strict bans on weapons or leaving and re-entering the facility once being checked in.

The critical report took an Eimago representative by surprise, with coordinator Elizabeth Kelly telling the City Council it was the first time she had heard about the incidents.

"We did do our best," she said.

A locally run shelter would likely not be funded through the county agency and cost the city approximately $151,000, according to a city report. Funding sources for the shelter would come from Glendale and Burbank, donations from residents and the service provider, officials said.

Still, Starbird said identifying a site would likely be a greater challenge than finding funding options.

Councilman Dave Weaver agreed.

"Nobody is going to want a winter shelter next door to them," he said.

Urban Initiatives, a nonprofit community-based organization, has agreed to be the shelter's service provider, said Jess Duran, assistant director of the Community Services and Parks Department.

The shelter would house 50 beds, instead of the usual 150, he said.

Having a local shelter would limit the number of people served, focus on Glendale and Burbank homeless populations, limit its impact on the community and provide housing vouchers and more case management, Duran said.

For the city officials to reconsider their position, "We will have to do a better job at getting a commitment from the service provider," Duran said.

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