BELL — The Salvation Army plans to begin operating its first emergency shelter for the homeless in the Southeast area this week in a federally owned warehouse across from the California Bell Club.
"We're shooting to open by Christmas, but it looks like it might be Monday," said Carol Whitthoff, divisional social services consultant for the Salvation Army. "We are still hiring staff."
The 18,000-square-foot facility will be open only in the winter. It will house up to 200 homeless men and women who will be bused from a Salvation Army shelter in Huntington Park and two shelters in Los Angeles.
Although city officials initially opposed the idea of busing the homeless to Bell from elsewhere in Los Angeles County, the City Council gave its support to the shelter earlier this month after several changes were made in the plan. One councilman said he still has reservations, however.
"I still say it's not the greatest way to handle the homeless problem," said Councilman George Cole, who had initially branded the proposal as "horrible social planning."
On Monday, Los Angeles developers Nathan Shappell and Guilford Glazer presented the Salvation Army with a $25,000 check to pay operational costs for the shelter's first several weeks, Whitthoff said. Shappell and Glazer are expected to raise another $25,000 to cover costs for the entire three months the shelter will operate.
The facility is one of 12 temporary Salvation Army shelters to open in recent weeks. It will be the first shelter for the homeless in California to be on federal property and controlled by the General Services Administration, said Russell Prince, director of development for the Salvation Army.
Tucked among several warehouses in the Federal Supply Service Center on Rickenbacker Road, off Eastern Avenue, the shelter will mainly serve people from within five miles of Bell, Whitthoff said, but those from outside the area will not be turned away.
Suggested by Judge
The shelter was suggested last winter by U. S. Circuit Judge Harry Pregerson, a frequent and outspoken advocate for the homeless.
"The nice story here is that you've got a full partnership with the federal government, the Salvation Army and local officials," Pregerson said. "I am hoping this (shelter) will be a model that is repeated in the West and other areas of the country."
The homeless will be registered and bused to Bell from Salvation Army centers at 6002 Rita Ave., Huntington Park, and at 140 N. Eastman Ave. and 5280 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles. They will arrive at 6 p.m. and receive food and a shower before being bused back to the other centers at 6 the next morning.
If the weather is bad, the homeless will be allowed to stay at the shelter during the day, Whitthoff said.
After three months, the Salvation Army and Bell officials will evaluate the shelter and decide whether to keep it open all year.