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County to Fund Shelter Program in Summer

September 19, 2003|Carla Rivera | Times Staff Writer

Drawing on a successful experiment in the city of Los Angeles to extend cold- and wet-weather shelter programs to the homeless through the summer, the county Board of Supervisors voted this week to earmark $2.5 million to open similar year-round facilities.

The motion by Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky directs the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, the city-county agency that administers shelter programs, to report back to the board within 45 days with a list of potential sites and providers.

The county-funded shelters will follow the lead of seven currently open in the city of Los Angeles and will operate from March 16 to Nov. 30 next year. Traditional winter shelters such as those established in National Guard armories receive mostly federal funding and are open from Dec. 1 through March 15.

Yaroslavsky cited estimates showing a shortfall of 10,000 emergency shelter beds in the county.

Authorities said they had been uncertain whether chronically homeless men and women would use the 860 shelter beds during warm months, but they were in fact having to turn scores of people away. The shelters provide an overnight cot, hot meals and access to housing assistance, job support, mental health and substance abuse counseling, and other services.

Mitchell Netburn, executive director of the agency for the homeless, said the county funds would provide about 430 beds. Officials hope to place shelters in each supervisorial district but will give priority to communities willing to provide financial or other support, Netburn said.

Meanwhile, Los Angeles City Councilwoman Jan Perry introduced a motion last week to establish ongoing funding for year-round shelters after the current $4.5-million program ends.

In another action, the Board of Supervisors voted this week to allocate $190,000 to expand a pilot project that provides women and children living in downtown skid row with transportation, food assistance, crisis counseling and other services to help them find homes. The new funding will extend services to the San Gabriel Valley.

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