Plans for a smaller winter homeless shelter this year in Glendale is facing growing skepticism from those who say fewer beds will likely leave more transients out in the cold.

In deciding to leave the Los Angeles County-funded winter shelter program this year and go it alone, Glendale — which serves homeless clients in Burbank — will offer just 50 beds, down from about 150 last year.

A joint task force for the two cities is trying a new approach with the smaller group of clients, planning to tap a comprehensive set of counseling and other services to move the transients of the streets and into transitional housing -- an effort they say will have a longer term and more meaningful impact.

But the concept, while lauded by some as a noble effort to make lasting change, has been criticized by others, who say the goal should be to get as many homeless people as possible out of potentially deadly winter conditions.

Burbank Deputy Housing and Redevelopment Manager Maribel Leyland said last year, 38 transients from the city used the winter shelter in Glendale. But more than 200 people were counted as homeless in Burbank in 2011, according to the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority.

Andy Bales, president of the Union Rescue Mission — which had operated the county-funded shelter under its secular subsidiary, EIMAGO — said there’s “not just concern on the part of other cities, there’s panic.”

There are a lot more people than beds available, and when temperatures drop below 40 degrees, along with rain, the combination could be deadly, Bales said.

While the intent of the new Glendale concept may be honorable, Bales said, “you don’t do that by leaving everyone else out in the cold.”

Organizers of the homeless shelter in Pasadena have been bracing for an influx of homeless people who may get turned away at the smaller Glendale operation this year.

Tim Davis, executive director of Santa Clarita Community Development Corp., which operates shelters in Sylmar and Santa Clarita Valley, said he has been working with officials in Glendale since August, but has mixed feelings about the change.

“I think it’s a good idea,” Davis said. “The national idea is showing very good results, financially and in its humaneness, when you provide a maximum effort to get people into homes as soon as possible. I respect that and appreciate it.

“But on the other side, because it’s…limited to 50 clients, that’s 150 to 200 people that normally use it and don’t have shelter.”

-- Maria Hsin and Jason Wells, Times Community News

Twitter: @mariahsin, @JasonBretWells

Photo: A client spreads out his bedding on a cot at the Glendale National Guard Armory in Glendale last year on the first night of the shelter season. Credit: Times Community News