Homeless shelter program to close on positive note

David Purves didn’t know what to do when he lost his business and was forced to give up his apartment in Burbank last year.

He slept in his car for awhile, and on friends’ couches; and when he had some money, he spent a night or two in a motel.

That bouncing around ended when the 46-year-old was referred to an experimental winter shelter at the Glendale National Guard Armory run by Glendale and Burbank. Instead of hosting 150 homeless people a night at the armory, as another homeless provider had in years past, the pilot program was capped at 50 beds with the goal of transitioning clients off the streets and into more long-term housing.

Of the 90 clients who that went through the so-called Homeless Solutions Program, 13 households consisting of 38 people will be placed in housing by March 15, the end of the program, officials say.

Purves is one of them.

“I always worked and had somewhere to live. I just kind of got caught up in the economic decline,” Purves said from his new studio apartment in South Glendale. “I really got lucky finding this.”

But for all the program’s success, Ivet Samvelyan, Glendale’s homeless services coordinator, said she’s unsure if the city will be able to carry on with the program.

“The budget is pretty tight next year,” she said.

The roughly $150,000, three-month program was funded by Glendale, Burbank and a federal grant. In 2009, Glendale had received $1.3 million in federal stimulus funding for homeless prevention programs. The last $100,000 is being used to subsidize rent through June for the program participants who received permanent housing, Samvelyan said.

Purves’ $745 monthly rent is fully covered by a subsidy, but he’s hopeful that an interview he had will lead to a job so he can cover his rent on his own in six months.

“I think I can do it,” he said.

Not all participants that get permanent housing will be fully subsidized. Instead, their rent discount will depend on their current income from a job or government assistance.

Those that won’t get housing will be referred to other providers in the area for emergency shelters, such as Ascencia, Glendale’s largest homeless nonprofit services provider, and the Salvation Army.

Some in the program thought everyone would get permanent housing, but Samvelyan said that was never the case. The goal was to get participants under case management, connect them to job resources and work toward finding housing.

“The lack of affordable housing makes it difficult for us to place them in housing,” Samvelyan said, citing funding constraints.

Some who won’t be getting housing said they were disheartened.

“That’s the general homeless shuffle,” said Jerome McMaster, a Burbank program participant.

But by working closely with landlords to negotiate rents, the program has been able to house more clients than many had originally expected.

“For a winter shelter program, I think those are good numbers,” said Natalie Profant Komuro, Ascencia’s executive director.

The program had its critics when it first started in December. Other emergency shelter providers said limiting the National Guard Armory on Colorado Boulevard to 50 participants based on referrals would put pressure on already overcrowded nearby shelters.

Glendale officials had championed the smaller shelter as a way to work more closely with local transients and block outsiders from coming to the city. Only people referred by Glendale and Burbank nonprofits could participate.

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