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Homeless shelter to drop government-funded programs

Union Rescue Mission, faced with a $1.3-million shortfall, says the government doesn't cover all the programs' costs or is slow to pay.

June 25, 2011|By Alexandra Zavis, Los Angeles Times
  • Union Rescue Mission officials say they can no longer operate government-funded programs because the costs are not fully covered and it takes months to get paid.
Union Rescue Mission officials say they can no longer operate government-funded… (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times )

Officials at one of the largest nonprofit homeless shelters in downtown Los Angeles say they can no longer operate government-funded programs because the costs are not fully covered and it takes months to get paid.

Andy Bales, president of Union Rescue Mission, said no one would be forced onto the streets because of the decision. But nine families who are in transitional housing in South Los Angeles may have to move into the mission's main shelter on downtown's skid row until alternative placements can be found.

The decision also throws into question the future of temporary shelters in Culver City, Glendale, West Los Angeles and downtown that accommodate 620 people a night during the winter.

"Our prayers and hopes are that someone else with deeper pockets will continue to operate them," Bales said.

Bales said the Christian mission has been using private donations to supplement the government contracts operated by its secular subsidiary, EIMAGO.

"In the last six or seven years, we have subsidized those operations about $4.5 million because we never get enough money from the government to operate the programs as they should be operated," he said.

Bales said the mission could not afford the drain on its resources at a time when it is serving more than 2,500 meals a day and sheltering about 800 people a night at its main downtown facility and at a center for women and children in Sylmar.

The mission subsidiary had expected to receive $305,000 from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for the winter shelter program that ended March 15 but is still waiting for the money, Bales said. He said the amount was included in the budget agreed to by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, which coordinates funding for services to the homeless.

Michael Arnold, executive director of the authority, said the agency tries to help nonprofits by providing advances on the city, county and federal funds that it distributes and ensuring that invoices are paid quickly. But he said FEMA's Emergency Food and Shelter Program money is distributed directly to providers by the program's own local board.

Maria Wiest, a member of the board, said no allocations could be made until Congress passed this year's budget and the program's national board decided how much each region was entitled to receive. That is not expected to occur until mid-July, said Wiest, chief administrative officer of United Way of Greater Los Angeles.

The mission's difficulties come at a time when many nonprofits are struggling to raise the funds they need to keep up with demand for their services in a bad economy. The mission is trying to close a $1.3-million shortfall in its $15-million budget before the end of it fiscal year Thursday. The program cutbacks will cost 18 employees their jobs, Bales said. Earlier this year, the mission began charging $7 a night for some of its downtown shelter beds.

Arnold said the city-county authority would find providers to take over 27 emergency shelter beds, nine transitional housing units and nine other units that the mission has promised to finish renovating. But he said he did not know whether the same number of temporary beds could be offered next winter.

"These federal programs make actually being successful really difficult," Arnold said.

Bales said the mission would set up 140 additional cots at its downtown facility on cold, wet nights.

alexandra.zavis@latimes.com

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