The city of Los Angeles launched a new 60-day shelter program for the homeless Monday, but had to find new homes for part of the program.
The National Guard, citing factors such as the Persian Gulf mobilization, refused to allow two armories to be converted from part-time shelters to nightly use.
New shelters will be established in the San Fernando Valley at Van Nuys Airport and on the Westside at Stoner Park Recreation Center, officials said, replacing the West Los Angeles and Van Nuys National Guard armories.
Those facilities had been designated as two of the 13 shelters in the three-year-old city program, which the City Council last week voted to operate on a continuing basis during the coldest part of the year. Previously, the program operated only on nights when temperatures dipped below state emergency guidelines.
The change grew out of a study that found the Van Nuys armory was used on 40 or more days of the 60-day cold weather period during the past two winters, and that other shelters were used with equal frequency, said Bob Vilmur, coordinator of city programs for the homeless.
Officials hope that opening shelters for the entire 60 days will allow them to serve more homeless people and offer more and better medical and social services.
"It was the most humane way to do it," said Wendy Greuel, an aide to Mayor Tom Bradley. "We are disappointed that they did not allow us to do it this way."
Guard commanders told Bradley's office that the armories should be used only on an emergency basis. The Guard cannot open the armories to the homeless for two months consecutively because that could lead to similar demands in colder parts of the state and interfere with preparations by guard units that may be called to duty in Operation Desert Shield, said Sgt. Phil Jordan, a spokesman for the California National Guard in Sacramento.
City officials plan to use a hangar at Van Nuys Airport in the Valley, where more than 40 people have been housed at the National Guard Armory on five nights since Nov. 1. The Los Angeles Board of Airport Commissioners is expected Wednesday to approve the city's request to use the hangar, Vilmur said.
The Westside homeless program will move temporarily to a recreation center in Stoner Park this week, Vilmur said, while program officials search for another facility to use until Jan. 15. The city of Santa Monica has agreed to provide a shelter from Jan. 15 until Feb. 15, he said.