The City Council has agreed to give Ascencia, Glendale’s largest homeless services provider, $7,500 to fill a funding gap for its upcoming emergency winter shelter.

Ascencia needs the extra funding to operate the shelter out of a facility in the southern portion of the city rather than the Glendale National Guard Armory in downtown, which has proven to be a controversial site for the shelter for more than a decade.

“The most significant challenges are really based on the environmental issue of the location,” said City Manager Scott Ochoa during a City Council meeting earlier this month, noting that homeless people prompted nuisance problems in nearby Central Park and in the downtown business district in the past.

The council approved the funding plan unanimously, paving the way for Ascencia to move the shelter out of downtown. Ascencia plans to begin operating its 90-day winter shelter on Dec. 1.

For 14 of the past 16 years, a winter shelter has operated at the armory. For two years, the shelter moved to the Burbank armory as the Glendale building underwent repairs.

For most of that time, the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority operated a 150-bed regional shelter at the Glendale armory. The authority is a joint-powers agency consisting of the city and Los Angeles County.

But during the 2011-12 winter season, Glendale and Burbank spent a combined $151,000 on a locals-only 50-bed winter shelter program at the Glendale armory in an attempt to reduce the number of transients from migrating to the city during the winter months.

With no money to continue the pilot program, both cities gave up and Ascencia, after receiving $145,600 from the homeless services authority for a two-year contract, stepped in. Ascencia then operated an 80-bed regional shelter that at times went over capacity.

Some people who could not be served by the shelter set up a camp in Central Park, upsetting users of the nearby Adult Recreation Center. Over the course of the three-month program, Ascencia served 541 people, 14% of whom were from Glendale and 5% were from Burbank, according to a city report.

The homeless services authority funded Ascencia to operate a shelter out of the Glendale armory again this year. However, with a nudge from city officials, the nonprofit worked out a plan to move the shelter to its current facility at 437 Fernando Court.

In addition to the conflict with neighbors, Ascencia faced the added challenge of finding alternative sites when the armory had black-out dates, which typically occur when the site is needed for military training.

The nonprofit is moving its entire operation to a new facility at 1851 Tyburn St. before the end of the year and plans to extend its Fernando Court lease to house 70 homeless there through the winter shelter.

But to extend the lease, it had to fill a funding gap of $7,500. Another 10 homeless people could stay at the new Tyburn facility. Ascencia will also continue to operate its year-round shelter and homeless programs at the Tyburn site.

City officials have applied for a county grant to backfill the $7,500. If they get it, the cost will be covered by the county.

Ochoa said city officials plan to reach out to their counterparts in Los Angeles to discuss options for future winter shelter programs in the Los Angeles neighborhoods surrounding Glendale, such as Glassell Park, because many of the Glendale winter-shelter users are from the city of Los Angeles.

Last year, 36% of winter-shelter clients were from L.A. and the greater Los Angeles area and 45% were from neighboring counties.

October 9, 2013
Glendale News-Press
By Brittany Levine

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