Homeless shelter is full of questions

Here we are again — the annual winter homeless shelter season.

It seems that every year, a bit of NIMBYism and hoarding tendencies emerge on the political stage: keep the homeless out; why should we have to pay for someone else's problem, and so on.

In agreeing to contribute $20,000 to help cover a budget gap for the county-funded shelter at the Glendale National Guard Armory — operated by a Rescue Mission of Los Angeles subsidiary — the Burbank City Council huffed and puffed, and asked for a strict accounting of how the money was being used, particularly on local clients.

Council members argued that Burbank's share of homeless clients using the shelter is relatively small compared with other points of origin, and so it was unfair to have to contribute so much. Besides, when the shelter was in Burbank for two years, Glendale's response for financial help was flat, they argued.

And an element of protectionism has gained steam in Glendale, where officials have pressed for going it alone next year with a city-funded shelter that wouldn't have to open up to transients from outside the city. Since the current shelter accepts county funding, it must accept all homeless clients, with most of those coming from nearby Los Angeles.

In pushing for the local shelter, Glendale officials have argued that less would be needed for the operation since the number of local homeless clients represents a much smaller proportion of the total number of people who use it each year from throughout the county.

In an age of municipal hunkering amid falling tax revenues and pressure from Sacramento, all of this retreating from the greater common cause may seem prudent, but we can't help but wonder how this will address what most experts agree is a regional problem.

If cities start erecting service borders, it's very likely to turn into squeezing one end of the balloon, only to see the other side expand. Time and again, "migrant transients" for the winter have said they travel to our area because it is generally safer than the mega homeless pits of Los Angeles and elsewhere. When winter subsides, so does their population.

If we start limiting access to only "local" homeless people, it stands to reason there's more incentive for migrants to "set roots" in Glendale to take advantage of our services over a longer period of time. What then? Just how far are we willing to accept the potentially growing costs of politically motivated boundaries?

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