Three weeks after the Burbank-Glendale homeless winter shelter opened with less than one-third of its 50 beds filled, the program has yet to reach capacity, prompting officials to reevaluate some rules to make it easier to access.
The three-month program that began Dec. 15 at Glendale’s National Guard Armory is limited to 50 people with ties to Glendale or Burbank who are pre-selected by local social service groups. In the past, the armory housed 150 homeless people as part of a “come one, come all” regional winter shelter sponsored by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority.
Since the new operation opened, a maximum of 32 people — three of them children — have been served by the shelter on any given night.
Critics of the program expected lines out the door for the shelter, but according to a draft city report, only 14 non-referred homeless came to the armory during the first two weeks. And although city officials said they would take walk-ins if there were extra beds, none of those 14 got in because they either did not pass background checks or carry identification, according to the operator.
Some who have been referred to the list haven’t been reached, an effort hampered by the fact that transients don’t have cell phones or a dependable way to be tracked down.
“Having a short time to get the word out didn’t help,” said Joe Colletti, executive director of Urban Initiatives, the consultant running the program, at a meeting of local homeless services leaders on Wednesday.
Glendale officials began notifying those who made the list in early December, but Burbank didn’t start until the week the armory opened. Colletti said his team plans to increase community outreach to make sure approved clients on the streets know they have a place to stay.
Even though the shelter is not at capacity, some referred by Ascencia, the homeless nonprofit in charge of Glendale recommendations, didn’t make the cut.
“There are a number of people on our vulnerability list that were denied,” said Christina Hanna, social services assistant at Ascencia, referring to an index that identifies the most vulnerable homeless people.
Shelter rules block those with criminal records or histories of drug abuse, but Colletti said they might try to accommodate clients who are meeting with drug counselors and trying to get back on track.
“We’re three weeks in to a three-month program,” Colletti said. “Nothing has to be carved in stone.”
Operators have already been flexible on another rule requiring participants to come every night or risk being kicked out of the intensive program. Clients are required to complete several tasks during the day assigned by a case manager — the ultimate goal being that they can move into transitional housing as the shelter program winds down and eventually get them permanently off the street.
City officials have said they hope the smaller program will deter homeless people from outside the city coming to Glendale. Of the 29 adults in the program — who are mostly white men over 40 — 12 are from Glendale and nine are from Burbank. Others are from Van Nuys, North Hollywood and Pasadena but have local ties.
Seven clients have been identified so far for possible housing through June. Officials look at client health and income to determine if they qualify for relief.
According to the draft report, eight receive Social Security benefits of between $686 and $1,400 a month, 13 qualify for food stamps, and five received no government assistance.