By Jason KUROSO
Emergency shelters have been established for the homeless across the region in anticipation of a winter exacerbated by El Niño conditions that are expected to be some of the strongest seen in the last 20 years.
The lone winter shelter in Glendale is being operated by Ascencia, which is providing 80 beds for adults, in addition to their usual 40-bed facility.
The winter shelter opened its doors on Nov. 16 and will remain open through the end of March. Ascencia Executive Director Natalie Komuro said that the shelter has been filled to capacity nightly at the 44,000 sq. ft. warehouse secured by the city. Shelter hours are from 4:30 p.m. to 7 a.m., though according to Ivet Samvelyan, Glendale Homeless Programs supervisor, the winter shelters may be opened up for 24-hour periods in cases of “severe weather.”
Between Ascencia and other local shelters, Samvelyan said there are around 300 available beds, which she said is adequate space for Glendale’s homeless population this winter. Samvelyan said that last year’s Glendale homeless count recorded 112 unsheltered homeless individuals within the city. A new count will be conducted this January.
The Ascencia shelter accepts 80 walk-ins over 18 years of age on a first-come, first-serve basis. Any arrivals above the 80-bed threshold are referred to other facilities, including the 16 other winter shelters operated by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA). Families are referred to Ascencia’s location on Tyburn Street.
Four winter shelters, including Ascencia, lie within the San Fernando Valley’s Service Planning Area, one of seven LAHSA regions serving the homeless.
Though shelter beds have been quick to fill up each night, Samvelyan said the city is doing what it can to ensure that the homeless can find somewhere to stay, if not necessarily in a Glendale shelter. Bus tokens and passes are being provided for use at pickup locations scattered throughout Southern California, where those in need can find transportation to other area shelters. Those in Glendale who cannot find beds are typically referred to the Sylmar Armory or the Greater Community Missionary Baptist Church in Pacoima.
Samvelyan also said that outreach staff canvasses city streets daily looking for homeless and providing them with transport and information on shelter services.
Komuro said her hope is to eventually add 100 additional beds to the winter shelter. However, hurdles exist in regard to funding and approval needed by various entities including the fire department and the city.
Komuro said that it would be ideal to have closer facilities but she is grateful just to have a winter shelter, as Glendale did not have a winter shelter operating in 2014.
She hopes those who attend the winter shelter this year may eventually be persuaded to take part in Ascencia’s transitional and permanent supportive house programs, as well as escape cold weather, a regular threat to the homeless.
“Many people who are living on the street have health problems and are already vulnerable even in the best of circumstances,” said Komuro.
According to LAHSA, there are 3,829 unsheltered homeless within that area, 1,974 of whom are considered chronically homeless. Three-hundred-sixty beds are available within the area’s four winter shelters.
Ascencia’s winter shelter is located at 1219 Los Angeles St. in Glendale and can be contacted at (818) 391-2890.
Visit http://www.lahsa.org/winter_shelter_program for more information on winter shelters and pickup locations.