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Homeless shelter scales back

Fewer beds this winter will mean better services for some, while others are directed elsewhere.

November 30, 2011|By Maria Hsin, maria.hsin@latimes.com
  • Jeff Austin spreads out his bedding on a cot at the Glendale National Guard Armory in Glendale on the first night of the season the Armory has been open to give shelter to those who need it on Wednesday, December 1, 2010. Austin has been homeless since March and tonight is his first night in a shelter. (Tim Berger/Staff Photographer)
Jeff Austin spreads out his bedding on a cot at the Glendale…

Even with the number of winter shelter beds available to the homeless in Burbank drastically reduced this year, city officials say the end result could be better since the quality of services will be higher. That viewpoint is getting mixed reviews from those who work with that community, however.

In deciding to leave the Los Angeles County-funded winter shelter program this year and go it alone, Glendale — which serves homeless clients in Burbank — will offer just 50 beds, down from about 150 last year.

But those who do get a bed will be flushed with social services and counseling to move them from a temporary shelter to transitional housing and on the path to self-sufficiency.

“We believe we can provide a greater level of service for those who do come,” said Councilman Dave Golonski, who sits on the Burbank Homeless Task Force.

The concept has been lauded by some as a noble effort to make lasting change, and criticized by others, who say the goal should be to get as many transients as possible out of the potentially deadly winter conditions.

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Tim Davis, executive director of Santa Clarita Community Development Corp., which operates shelters in Sylmar and Santa Clarita Valley, said he has been working with officials in Glendale since August, but has mixed feelings about the change.

“I think it’s a good idea,” Davis said. “The national idea is showing very good results, financially and in its humaneness, when you provide a maximum effort to get people into homes as soon as possible. I respect that and appreciate it.

“But on the other side, because it’s…limited to 50 clients, that’s 150 to 200 people that normally use it and don’t have shelter.”

Andy Bales, president of the Union Rescue Mission — which had operated the county-funded shelter under its secular subsidiary, EIMAGO — said there’s “not just concern on the part of other cities, there’s panic.”

There are a lot more people than beds available, and when temperatures drop below 40 degrees, along with rain, the combination could be deadly, Bales said.

“I think it’s irresponsible to be turning people away,” Bales said. “The whole reason for the winter shelter was to save peoples’ lives. If you turn people away, you may be turning people away to their deaths.”

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