Homeless service calls spike in Glendale

There were 10 times as many transient-related calls for service during the most recent winter homeless shelter at the National Guard Armory on Colorado Boulevard compared to the year prior, records show.

Over the three-month span of the most recent winter shelter, Glendale police responded to 223 calls and observations — many for public drunkenness or trespassing — at five sites the department tracks, including the armory, Adult Recreation Center and neighboring businesses.

For the 2011-12 shelter season, there were just 27 transient-related calls from the same sites.

City officials and shelter operators say the sharp rise in calls could be because of more beds, laxer acceptance criteria for clients, an increased demand for housing due to the protracted recession, or better coordination with police.


FOR THE RECORD: A previous version of this post incorrectly stated that LAHSA reduced beds by 16% due to lack of funding during last winter’s emergency shelter season. Although the 16% drop was initially reported, the joint-powers authority was later able to pay for 240 more beds than originally projected. The county-wide shelter system ended offering less than 1% fewer beds during the 2012-13 shelter season.


The 80-bed shelter at the Glendale National Guard Armory on Colorado Street this year had more beds and was open to all, while the 2011-12 shelter, funded by the cities of Glendale and Burbank, was limited to 50 homeless clients referred by local agencies.

But the number of service calls this year was also double the total number received in 2010-11, when there was an even bigger come-one come-all shelter.

That could be because of an increased need for housing as people continue to recover from the protracted recession while funding for both permanent and temporary housing continues to shrink nationwide, officials said.

The Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, a joint powers authority that funds winter shelters across the county, ended up offering less than 1% fewer beds for the 2012-13 season compared to the year before.

"It's a sign of the times," said Glendale city spokesman Tom Lorenz. "This is not a Glendale issue. This is not a Burbank issue. This is a countywide issue."

Community Services & Parks Director Jess Duran attributed the change partially to greater coordination with police by the shelter operator, Ascencia, compared to the 2010-11 organizer. That year, there were 114 transient-related calls, according to a city report.

In response to the calls this past winter, officers logged 99 arrests or citations, about a third of which were due to public drunkenness, according to a police report. Another third were connected to city code violations, such as breaking smoking and littering rules.

There were also six arrests or citations stemming from violent crimes.

Natalie Profant Komuro, executive director of Ascencia, Glendale's largest homeless services nonprofit, said word-of-mouth about the shelter returning to a first-come, first-served model after being an exclusive program spread quickly, which could have attracted more people, leading to more calls.

Ascencia's winter shelter, funded by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, often housed 100 people on cold nights, more than the 80-person capacity.

Opponents of come-one, come-all style shelters, which are required if county and state funding is involved, say they attract outsiders who loiter around Glendale Central Library and nearby shopping centers. Homeless advocates say limiting the shelter means more people are left out in the cold or increases demand at shelters in nearby cities.

In addition to the homeless at the armory, there were others who created a makeshift encampment outside the Adult Recreation Center, spooking elderly Tai Chi practitioners in the area.

Profant Komuro said her outreach team has already had some success in abating that problem.

But the police calls only show one side of the homeless situation in Glendale, where many service gaps, including a lack of substance abuse programs and affordable housing, exist.

About two months after the shelter closed, a 58-year-old woman who was a client was found dead in an alley in Glendale. It was her birthday.

Her cause of death wasn't immediately known.

Two years ago, another shelter client died on the streets a few months after the emergency shelter shut its doors.

"The winter shelter program is such an important program," Profant Komuro said. "It really does save lives."


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