Glendale homeless shelter seeks help

A woman looks for free clothing at the National Guard Armory in Glendale. The city's news winter homeless shelter is seeking volunteers and supplies. (File photo)

On the eve of Glendale’s new winter homeless shelter opening its doors, organizers are scrambling to secure donations and volunteers for its food program.

Of the 90 days the shelter is scheduled to operate, organizers say just nine days have been vouched for by volunteers willing to provide food and help. The program is more reliant than ever on donations due to a reduced budget for the smaller shelter operation this year, which begins Thursday.

“We need to get the word out,” said Joe Colletti, executive director of Urban Initiatives, which will be managing the shelter.

In the past, the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority ran a 150-bed winter shelter at the Glendale National Guard Armory on an approximately $400,000 budget, said Ivet Samvelyan, Glendale’s homeless services coordinator. Officials gathered volunteers for the county-run shelter in years past, but didn’t need as much help providing food because of the authority’s larger budget, she added.

This year, Glendale opted to break away from the county system and partner with Burbank for a 50-bed shelter limited to pre-selected homeless clients referred by local social service providers.

The smaller $150,000 budget means just $28,000 is earmarked for food, Samvelyan said.

“We do have a budget for food, but it’s not enough for the length of the program,” she said.

Glendale officials have said the smaller shelter may reduce the influx of homeless people that they say the county program attracted in the past. By offering more intensive case management to the smaller group of clients, Samvelyan said she expects to transition at least 15 families into temporary subsidized housing paid for by federal stimulus money.

Critics of the new program have called it too small and a poor fit for the true needs of a cold-weather homeless shelter.

Samvelyan said she would like to get more community or faith-based organizations to donate food for dinner and sack lunches, as well as volunteers to help set up cots, serve food or play games with children.

“With the economy, I think resources are a little scarce,” Samvelyan said in referring to the slow progress in securing donations.

The city often taps the same church groups to support homeless programs throughout the year, so adding one more need to the list may be taxing, Samvelyan said.

Christmas and New Year’s Day are open for public help, as well, Samvelyan said, adding that volunteers could also help wrap gifts donated to the shelter for the holidays.

To find out more, contact Glendale’s homeless services coordinator Ivet Samvelyan at isamvelyan@ci.glendale.ca.us or Sofia Herrera of Urban Initiatives at sofiaherrera@urban-initiatives.org or 626-304-3753.