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Spending on Homeless Examined : Government: Study finds that Glendale is second in county in per-capita expenditures while La Canada Flintridge is last in a survey of 17 cities. Report urges a regional response.

April 08, 1993|RENEE TAWA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

REGION — Glendale ranks second among major Los Angeles County cities in spending for its homeless people, while La Canada Flintridge spends no money on the homeless, according to a new USC study.

Glendale, which spends $1.74 per capita on the homeless, ranks only behind Santa Monica, which spends $14.96.

The study, by the Los Angeles Homelessness Project at USC, includes the rankings in a look at 17 cities with populations exceeding 50,000 and per-capita spending of at least $500.

Authors Jennifer R. Wolch and Robin M. Law, who say that larger cities with sound budgets should take the lead on spending for the homeless, found that more than half of the county's 85 cities, including La Canada Flintridge, spend nothing on the homeless. The city's budget is $3.5 million.

The 65-page report, released last month, examines the homelessness policies, population and spending of the county's cities, based on 1990 U.S. Census figures and 1992 surveys.

The authors call for a regional response to homelessness, with each city contributing time or money on the issue.

But city leaders have faulted the report's findings, pointing to census figures that show they have small, or nonexistent, homeless populations. (The authors say the census figures are widely acknowledged by experts to be inaccurate.)

La Canada Flintridge has no homeless people, according to census figures and a local survey, said Craig Ewing, the city's director of community development. Furthermore, he said, no community groups have asked the city for money to help the homeless.

"It is difficult for a local agency to identify what its role is in a regional problem," Ewing said. "We find that to be true in a number of issues, whether it be air quality or the homeless or affordable housing. On some of those issues, like affordable housing or air quality, we have regional agencies that guide local governments. There is no similar agency for the homeless. That's one problem."

Church volunteers in La Canada Flintridge are helping the homeless, said Pat Myers, a 73-year-old volunteer at La Canada Presbyterian Church. She has not seen homeless people setting up permanent camps in the city, but she sees them pushing shopping carts with their belongings and sleeping in parks. Several local churches give food or motel vouchers to homeless families who show up at their doorsteps, Myers said.

"I've never thought to go to the city and talk to them about it because it wasn't an immediate city need," she said.

Glendale, according to census figures, has 99 homeless people. The city's $82.5-million budget includes $62,790 in city funds for the homeless and $61,625 in federal funds.

"It's a community problem," said Madalyn Blake, director of the city's Community Development and Housing Department. "It's not just a problem for the (social service) agencies, not just a problem for business, not just a problem the city should solve on its own."

Glendale officials have joined the Homeless Coalition, a group of social service agencies and churches that is assessing the needs of the area's homeless.

In addition, volunteers help run the Lord's Kitchen, a Salvation Army soup kitchen in Glendale that feeds about 100 people a day. Glendale has no shelters for the homeless, but the Salvation Army provides food, clothing, showers and rent assistance, said Paul Bandy, the group's director of social services.

"It's never enough," he said.

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