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The Valley

Warm Places for Cold Nights

Shelters in Sylmar and Glendale will offer cots for up to 150 homeless people each evening through March.

November 30, 2002|Wendy Thermos | Times Staff Writer

Two cold-weather shelters will open Sunday in the San Fernando Valley to offer homeless people hot meals and a place to sleep on winter nights.

Advocates for the homeless say they expect the need for refuge to match or exceed last winter's as the effects of the Sept. 11 tragedy continue to be felt on the economy.

The shelters, part of a network of government-funded winter shelters in Los Angeles County, will be set up nightly at National Guard armories in Glendale and Sylmar. Each will have 125 to 150 cots available until March 15.

"We were at capacity most of the time last year," said Joan Thirkettle, director of community services for the Glendale YMCA, which operates the Glendale shelter. "I think the demand will be very similar to last year."

The shelters will open at 7 p.m. each night, and those using the accommodations must leave by 6 the next morning. A hot dinner and a breakfast will be served daily.

The need for homeless services always increases with the arrival of cold weather, but this year it appears to be heightened by job-market fallout from the bad economy, said Ken Craft, director of the nonprofit San Fernando Valley Rescue Mission in North Hollywood.

"I've spoken with so many people on the streets who maybe were working at the airport or in the hotel industry and who have lost their jobs," he said. "These are not the chronic homeless, what some might call the 'hard-core' homeless. These are the new homeless. They've been evicted, they lost their homes, they're living in their cars, and they don't want to be there."

The rescue mission finds housing for 50 individuals and families a night by using local church facilities, such as sanctuaries and dining halls. "By February we expect to be doing 100 a night," Craft said.

At the county shelters, in addition to meals and cots, visitors will be offered assistance to get back on their feet. "We try to remove them from the streets by offering referrals for counseling, health care, housing and employment," Thirkettle said.

L.A. Family Housing, which operates the Sylmar shelter at 12860 Arroyo St., will offer van transportation to the facility from six locations in the Valley. In the Glendale area, those seeking assistance should go directly to the armory at 220 E. Colorado St.

Information on the winter shelter program may be obtained by calling (800) 548-6047.

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