City may cut ties with county homeless authority

Glendale is moving to end a long-standing relationship with Los Angeles County in effort to reduce the number of transients it’s forced to take in for the annual winter homeless shelter program.

The City Council in its dual role as the Housing Authority voted unanimously Tuesday to break off a partnership with the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority — which maintains a “come one, come all” policy — in order to limit the number of homeless visiting the winter emergency shelter per night to 50. Last year’s shelter at the Glendale National Guard Armory on Colorado Street averaged 150 visitors a night.

The Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, which services the entire county, normally foots the bill for the shelter, but under the plan approved by the City Council, Glendale’s own operation would cost $151,000, with a $51,000 subsidy coming from the General Fund. Burbank has committed $50,000 to service its area, with the rest planned to come from the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The extra cost is something city officials said they are willing to pay to curb the number of outside homeless people coming into Glendale to take advantage of the county winter shelter.

“We can’t continue to be a magnet,” City Manager Jim Starbird said.

Now the ball is in the county’s court. The agency can still opt to have a regional shelter at the armory — which by law must be made available to winter homeless shelter programs — leaving Glendale not only without a location for its own proposed shelter, but possibly two shelters in the city from Dec. 15 to March 15.

City officials were scheduled to meet with Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority officials today to discuss the situation.

According to a city report, more than 80% of the homeless who used the armory last year came from outside Glendale and Burbank. Many came from Los Angeles.

Glendale Councilman Rafi Manoukian said he was concerned about how to determine the origins of homeless clients.

“A homeless individual is just that, homeless, they do not belong to any community,” Manoukian said.

Ivet Samvelyan, Glendale homeless services coordinator, said a city study found 80 people regularly sleeping on the streets in May. Of those, 50 agreed to take a survey in order to possibly receive targeted city help.

The city plans to provide the shelter for those that took the survey as part of what’s been termed a vulnerability index, she said.

If walk-ins come to the shelter and there is room, they may be allowed to stay depending on the circumstances, said Community Services and Parks Director Jess Duran. The city has allocated $5,000 to pay for transportation, such as bus passes, for those who get turned away.

They will also be provided with a list of nearby shelters, Samvelyan said.

“Is there a guarantee someone will leave? There is no guarantee,” she said.

Starbird said over time the proposed program, along with transitional and permanent housing options, could reduce the city’s homeless population.

The city has reserved five permanent and 20 transitional housing spots for participants in the shelter program, Samvelyan said.

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