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State Law Requirement : Homeless Housing Plan Gets Blessing--But No Money

June 22, 1989|SANTIAGO O'DONNELL | Times Staff Writer

Glendale City Council members say they will comply with recent state law by officially encouraging construction of housing for the homeless in their city. But a majority of the council says the commitment will not include spending city money.

The city is addressing housing for the homeless as part of a mandatory five-year review of the housing provisions of its General Plan. City Planning Director John McKenna said 1987 state legislation requires the housing sections of general plans to identify and offer solutions to the homeless situation.

The solution in Glendale, a majority of council members say, is to encourage federal, state or private sources to construct housing for the homeless.

Local governments should avoid financial involvement because only the most affluent cities can afford housing for the homeless, said City Councilman Larry Zarian. "If we leave it to cities, all the homeless housing would be concentrated in cities like Beverly Hills, Pasadena and Glendale," he said.

Transitional Facility

The update, prepared by the city's Planning and Community Services departments, states that while charity groups take care of most of the emergency needs of Glendale's 200 to 300 homeless, the city can help address medium-term needs by "encouraging the development of a transitional housing facility."

Such a facility, the update says, would provide "shelter for an extended period of time (perhaps as long as 18 months) and generally includes integration with other social services and counseling programs to assist in the transition to self-sufficiency through the acquisition of a permanent income and housing; the fact that nearly three-quarters of Glendale's homeless are identified as temporary or fragile homeless makes this type of shelter particularly well suited to the city."

All five council members said they will vote to approve the homeless housing provisions at Tuesday's council meeting.

But Zarian, Councilwoman Ginger Bremberg and Mayor Jerold Milner said they would do so only because they are required to do so by state law. They said local money should not be spent for the housing. "I know it seems hypocritical" to encourage the housing but refuse to pay for it, Zarian said. "But that seems to be our only choice."

Council members Carl Raggio and Dick Jutras said they support the idea of a privately run, city-subsidized transitional housing project.

Homeless 'Mecca'

Bremberg said such a facility would transform Glendale into a "mecca for the homeless in Southern California."

"My compassion is towards the other 165,000 residents of this city that need the traditional services a city provides, not towards the homeless that urinate on news racks and yell obscenities in the streets," Bremberg said.

She said many of the city's homeless are that way by choice because their families "provide them a place to stay, but they go back to the streets anyway."

Milner said, "Local governments should not be in the welfare business."

However, representatives of the city's nonprofit organizations that regularly aid the homeless said they were pleased to see the transitional housing clause added to the plan and hope to work with the city in implementing the recommendation.

"I think it's very thorough, and we are very fortunate to have such strong support from the city," said Lt. Kenneth Hodder, corps commanding officer of the Glendale Salvation Army. "When the city of Glendale is ready for transitional housing, the Salvation Army wants to be involved."

The Rev. Greg Roth of Glendale Presbyterian Church agreed that the additions were welcome, but he questioned the council's commitment to solving the homeless problem in the city.

Roth said he understood that the city would make the addition "only because it's required by state law. But I'm excited about the opening for a possible follow-through. That's our hope and expectation."

Roth, who chairs the Glendale Coalition to Coordinate Emergency Food and Shelter, said he did not subscribe to the theory that transitional housing would act as a magnet for homeless people around the state.

"There is no scientific evidence to prove the magnet theory," Roth said. "When the YMCA opened a small shelter for battered women in Glendale a few years back, it did not attract more battered women, it merely provided services to the women in our city."

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