For example, he said, his organization runs a program to pay for homeless families to stay in hotels or motels for several nights. During their stays, the families are provided with counseling to assist them with their problems. Also, he said, four Valley congregations have just established a joint program to provide shelter, food and counseling to 12 people for eight weeks beginning in January.
John Suggs, executive director of the Coalition for the Homeless, which operates throughout Los Angeles County, said he attributed some of the reluctance to a NIMBY, or "not in my back yard," reaction among some church leaders and residents who live near the churches. "People don't want to open up their communities to provide shelter to the homeless."
Left with no other options, Bianconi said her staff decided to examine the former Air National Guard that had been occupied by a unit that relocated to Point Mugu in 1988.
Bianconi admitted that she was less than overjoyed when she saw the hangar for the first time. Although it is insulated and has central heating, it had a hole in one wall to allow the tails of planes to remain outside.
But when they toured all the buildings on the site--including several barracks and the administration building--they found that the hangar was the only one large enough to house 150 people.
"We didn't want to go into a hangar, but we said, 'Oh, God, lets make this work,' " Bianconi said.
And work it will, the shelter's staff said, although they admitted that there are some problems--such as lack of sufficient kitchen space--that cannot be solved.
The hangar has two small enclosed offices that Mike Childress, the manager of the shelter, said he plans to use as a separate sleeping area for women and for a small television lounge.
Childress said he has no qualms about the site.
"When you are talking about taking people off the streets, it doesn't really matter what the building was used for before," he said.