Glendale is hosting a nightly winter shelter for the homeless for the first time in two years and ahead of heavy rains expected to be brought on by El Niño storms.

The 80-bed facility was set up in a 44,000-square-foot warehouse at 1219 Los Angeles St. and operates on a first-come, first-served basis.

The program started last week and will run every night through March 31 from 4:30 p.m. to 7 a.m.

Free meals will be offered in addition to a warm place to sleep.

Ascencia, Glendale’s largest homeless services agency, will oversee the shelter and offer help such as case management, counseling, psychiatric services as well as drug and alcohol recovery referrals and placement. Eventually, Ascencia hopes to provide permanent housing to those who use the shelter.

Showers are also being provided at Ascencia’s access center at 1851 Tyburn St. and the Burbank Temporary Aid Center at 1304 W. Burbank Blvd.

With a wet winter predicted, having a place to stay overnight will keep the day-to-day lives of homeless individuals from Glendale and neighboring cities from worsening because of El Niño, said Natalie Komuro, the agency’s executive director.

“The people who use this program are very vulnerable,” she said. “They tend to be pretty sickly. It’s even worse for them not to have an option for them when they could be susceptible to the wet weather.”

Five homeless people died on the streets of Glendale last year. Harsh weather would certainly cause more deaths, Komuro said.

A winter shelter was formerly open in the Glendale National Guard Armory on the edge of downtown, but that location generated complaints from visitors at the adjacent Adult Recreation Center and nearby retailers.

The Los Angeles Street location is in the San Fernando Road corridor and includes a large parking lot, so gatherings of people won’t spill out onto local streets, said Jess Duran, the city’s community services director.

“For this type of use, it’s better than a downtown location, and it’s still very accessible to bus lines and people coming into the area if they’re not local,” he said.

Ascencia didn’t provide a winter shelter last year because it couldn’t find a suitable site. Instead, local homeless people had to take a bus to the nearest shelters in Sylmar and Pacoima.

This year, Councilman Vartan Gharpetian reached out to the owners of the Los Angeles Street property, who were receptive to the idea of housing a temporary homeless shelter.

“We need to take care of people that are less fortunate than us,” Gharpetian said. “Especially during this time of year, there’s a huge need. We don’t want to just send them somewhere else.”

The Los Angeles County Homeless Service Authority, which funds contracts to operate winter shelters, shelled out $219,000, so far, to run the Glendale site through next spring, Komuro said.

The city of Glendale chipped in upward of $40,000 to get the shelter running, Duran said.

The local winter shelter is for adults only. Families seeking shelter can try Ascencia’s year-round, 40-bed facility at 1851 Tyburn St. Ascencia can be reached at (818) 246-7900, Ext. 100. Calling 211 is also an option.

Ascencia’s case workers roam local streets looking for homeless individuals and try to inform them of the nonprofit’s programs. For now, they’ll also be alerting them about the winter shelter.

Komuro said she’s already seen familiar faces at the shelter, including those who’ve lived on the streets for more than five years.

In addition to case work, Ascencia tries to transition people into temporary or permanent housing sites it operates.

“You’re not happy to see they’re still in need of help, but we’re happy that we’re here for them and provide them with these services,” Komuro said. “Hopefully, by the end of the season, if not sooner, we’ve got them in a permanent home and on their own.”

Arin Mikailian, arin.mikailian@latimes.com

November 25, 2015

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