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Area shelters forced to turn away the homeless

first_imgWHITTIER – An icy Arctic air mass that is expected to bring some of the coldest temperatures so far this winter could make it a tough weekend for the area’s most vulnerable – unsheltered homeless people. Local cold weather and emergency shelters are already filled to capacity and cannot accept any additional homeless people seeking a warm place to sleep, shelter officials said Tuesday. “The weather is usually nicer than this in March,” said Jackie Kolnick, 71, of La Mirada, who runs the Whittier cold weather shelter program as a volunteer. The shelter moves to a different church every other week. Meals are prepared by volunteers and served at the shelters. But the program can only accommodate about 30 people, and the shelter is now full, Kolnick said. And on Monday, Whittier’s cold weather shelter will close its doors for the year. Most cold weather shelters across Los Angeles County will close on March 15. “We don’t have the facilities to do it any longer because there aren’t enough churches to move to,” Kolnick said. Whittier Area First Day Coalition and the Salvation Army’s Hospitality House in Whittier provide long-term temporary housing for some homeless people. But the programs do not offer emergency shelter for those seeking a bed for only a few nights. “What we can do is give referrals to other shelters,” said Ted Knoll, executive director of First Day. “When the cold weather shelter closes, we take a lot of people for referrals.” Local homeless people are often referred to the Salvation Army’s overnight shelter in Bell, which is the next-closest emergency shelter. But that facility also is filled, officials said. Gone are the days when emergency shelters simply accepted anyone from off the streets. Over the past decade, liability issues have made emergency shelter operators think twice about placing unknown clients in shelters with women and children, said Riley Davis, director of Hospitality House. “I’m filled with compassion, but I also have the responsibility of people inside,” Davis said. “If I take someone in from the rain and have a child molester or a psych patient, I’m liable.” “There are only a couple of places you can walk in off the street for shelter. Even downtown Los Angeles, it’s so crowded and everything’s full,” Davis added. A January homeless census sponsored by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority determined that there are 82,291 homeless people in the county at any given time, and 9,254 of them are in the San Gabriel Valley. Twelve percent of homeless people surveyed were living in shelter facilities. Nearly 28 percent of the unsheltered homeless indicated that they had tried to find shelter in the previous 30 days but had been turned away, usually due to a lack of available beds. Mitchell Netburn, executive director of Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, said that for the more than 80,000 homeless people on any given night, the county’s cold weather shelters offered about 1,800 beds. “Ideally, we’d like to keep the beds open all year, but funding only allows us to open them for three months,” said Netburn. “The reality is that the morning after the shelters close, that’s the last time clients can access those beds. We try to link clients to other programs, but there are not a lot of opportunities. “Tragically, that does mean that many of them are back on the streets, in abandoned buildings and other places.” [email protected] (562) 698-0955, Ext. 3026 AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORECasino Insider: Here’s a look at San Manuel’s new high limit rooms, Asian restaurant160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img read more