Drop-in shel­ter for home­less will close

An­te­lope Val­ley’s only such fa­cil­ity is out of funds, and of­fi­cials scram­ble to set up new ar­range­ments

Los Angeles Times - - CALIFORNIA - By Doug Smith

The ra­tioning sys­tem at the Lan­caster Com­mu­nity Shel­ter worked on a sim­ple prin­ci­ple: pri­or­ity to those who slept on the street the night be­fore.

They lined up on the right. Ev­ery­one who had a bed the night be­fore lined up on the left and got a raf­fle ticket. When the doors opened around 4 p.m. the right line went in first. Then those on the left were called by num­ber un­til the shel­ter was full. Usu­ally about a dozen were turned away.

“You come here at 3 o’clock,” said Adam Man­dolph, who stood in the left line one af­ter­noon last week. “The anx­i­ety goes up. Will the lit­tle blue pa­per with your num­ber on it come up?”

Man­dolph’s num­ber didn’t come up. The for­mer mu­sic pro­ducer, 46, be­gan what he called the long walk down Yucca Av­enue, a quar­ter-mile hike to the city’s charm­ing main street, where he would spend the night.

“I have

hours of just walk­ing tonight,” Man­dolph said. He said he’s afraid of be­ing at­tacked while he sleeps.

Start­ing Mon­day, there will be no rea­son for Man­dolph to come back at all. There will be no line and no lot­tery. The op­er­a­tors of An­te­lope Val­ley’s only drop-in home­less shel­ter abruptly an­nounced late last month that af­ter strug­gling with red ink for years, they are clos­ing their doors.

The move by Grace Re­sources, a non­profit or­ga­ni­za­tion that also op­er­ates a food bank, ed­u­ca­tional pro­grams and a thrift store, has set off soul-search­ing among An­te­lope Val­ley of­fi­cials amid a fran­tic ef­fort to find other ac­com­mo­da­tions for the oc­cu­pants of the 108-bed shel­ter.

Fam­i­lies are be­ing given vouch­ers and re­lo­cated to mo­tels. Youth are be­ing trans­ferred to other fa­cil­i­ties. Churches are step­ping up to of­fer their pews at night for sin­gle men and women.

“I think we’ll get most of them housed and in a bed,” said Steve Baker, Grace’s ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor.

The clo­sure of the shel­ter has added new ur­gency to com­plaints that the An­te­lope Val­ley, whose home­less count climbed 50% this year to an es­ti­mated 4,559, is woe­fully short of ser­vices.

In June, the state’s Joint Leg­isla­tive Au­dit Com­mit­tee or­dered an au­dit to look into the com­plaint of state Sen. Scott Wilk (R-Santa Clarita) that the An­te­lope Val­ley re­ceives a dis­pro­por­tion­ately low share of fed­eral home­less funds.

On Tues­day, the Los An­ge­les County Board of Su­per­vi­sors unan­i­mously ap­proved a mo­tion by Su­per­vi­sor Kathryn Barger and board Chair­man Mark Ri­d­ley-Thomas to form an An­te­lope Val­ley home­less con­sor­tium to an­a­lyze the gap in ser­vices and de­velop so­lu­tions.

“There is an im­me­di­ate need to in­crease the ca­pac­ity of home­less ser­vices in a re­gional, holis­tic and col­lab­o­ra­tive fash­ion in the An­te­lope Val­ley,” Barger said.

Last year, vot­ers re­sound­ingly re­jected an at­tempt by Lan­caster to uni­lat­er­ally ad­dress its home­less prob­lem.

At the urg­ing of church groups, the City Coun­cil called a spe­cial elec­tion in Oc­to­ber on a par­cel tax to gen­er­ate $4 mil­lion an­nu­ally for both home­less ser­vices and law en­force­ment.

Baker said home­less ad­vo­cates hoped to build a new shel­ter for 400 to 600 peo­ple to pro­vide a re­gional so­lu­tion.

Just over 34% of vot­ers sup­ported the mea­sure.

Baker said Grace’s board de­cided the shel­ter had to close af­ter years of deficit spend­ing wiped out its re­serves.

“My board fi­nally said enough is enough,” Baker said. “I’ve gone way be­yond my fi­nan­cial means.”

The rea­sons for the shel­ter’s fi­nan­cial col­lapse re­main un­clear. Like most shel­ters, Grace had a com­plex fund­ing struc­ture. It held two con­tracts with the Los An­ge­les Home­less Ser­vices Author­ity, one for 15 year-round beds and an­other for 39 win­ter beds, op­er­a­tions direc­tor Jeremy John­son said. The city of Lan­caster had a sim­i­lar con­tract with the author­ity for 10 beds at the shel­ter and put up $200,000 in com­mu­nity block grant funds for it.

But Grace con­tin­ued to take in clients for beds that weren’t funded af­ter the win­ter con­tract ex­pired, John­son said.

John­son at­trib­uted the deficits to a com­bi­na­tion of the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s faith­based mis­sion and the cum­ber­some con­tract­ing process.

“A gen­er­ous heart and a gracious heart costs money,” he said. John­son said Baker, who has run Grace Re­sources since shortly af­ter its for­ma­tion by lo­cal pas­tors in 1991, will “just keep go­ing and give this fam­ily this and that fam­ily that.”

Grace’s con­tract with the Home­less Ser­vices Author­ity, for ex­am­ple, pro­vides $41,000 a year for vouch­ers to place fam­i­lies in mo­tels, but the shel­ter gave out $56,000 in vouch­ers last year, John­son said.

In March, Grace en­tered into a con­tract with Val­ley Oa­sis, a Palm­dale-based so­cial ser­vices agency, to pro­vide 48 beds for cri­sis and bridge hous­ing. The fund­ing would come from the Home­less Ser­vices Author­ity, and while the con­tract pro­vided steady in­come, it was too lit­tle, too late, John­son said.

It also cre­ated a dilemma for shel­ter direc­tor Matthew Buck when Val­ley Oa­sis didn’t re­fer enough clients to fill its beds, which were as­signed based on spe­cific re­quire­ments. Hav­ing only 20 beds for sin­gle men and 20 for sin­gle women, Buck said he had to turn peo­ple away even when there were empty beds, for which the shel­ter re­ceived no re­im­burse­ment.

Man­dolph, the man turned away last week, said he was one of those. He knew there were empty beds, but thought he didn’t meet the re­quire­ments.

“I’m not a felon,” he said. “I don’t have a drug prob­lem, don’t have a men­tal ill­ness. I would be ap­pre­cia­tive to sleep on the floor, and even to re­ceive a meal be­fore they turn me away.”

The Home­less Ser­vices Author­ity is­sued a state­ment Thurs­day say­ing it was work­ing with the city of Lan­caster to re­open the shel­ter. Author­ity spokesman Tom Wald­man said the agency asked to both fund and con­tinue op­er­at­ing the shel­ter and is also ex­plor­ing “other tem­po­rary shel­ter ar­range­ments.”

Lan­caster Mayor R. Rex Par­ris, who sup­ported the shel­ter bal­lot mea­sure last year, said he now has soured on it and is sup­port­ing Barger’s pro­posal in the hopes it will lead to a re­gional so­lu­tion.

The con­sor­tium is to in­clude the cities of Palm­dale and Lan­caster, com­mu­nity and faith-based or­ga­ni­za­tions, lo­cal providers and ad­vo­cacy groups, the Lan­caster and Palm­dale sher­iff’s sta­tions, lo­cal school dis­tricts and the Home­less Ser­vices Author­ity.

Par­ris said he thought Grace’s board of di­rec­tors was hop­ing “we would come rid­ing in on a white horse,” but he didn’t of­fer help.

“Could we have fig­ured out a way to keep that place open? Sure. But it would have been a detri­ment to the home­less pop­u­la­tion of the An­te­lope Val­ley,” Par­ris said. “I’m glad it’s clos­ing be­cause I think we’re go­ing to do some­thing that’s go­ing to have a long-term suc­cess.”

Even if the con­sor­tium to be con­vened by Barger takes a year to come up with a plan, he said, that’s bet­ter than per­pet­u­at­ing the sta­tus quo.

“So you have a year of 4,600 peo­ple be­ing home­less ver­sus 10 years of 4,500 peo­ple be­ing home­less,” Par­ris said. “It took this to have peo­ple look at the re­al­ity of it.”

‘I’m not a felon. I don’t have a drug prob­lem, don’t have a men­tal ill­ness. I would be ap­pre­cia­tive to sleep on the floor, and even to re­ceive a meal be­fore they turn me away.’ — Adam Man­dolph, for­mer mu­sic pro­ducer, 46, who is home­less

Pho­to­graphs by Ge­naro Molina Los An­ge­les Times

MIKE BASS, 51, right, and other home­less men wait to bed down Wed­nes­day at the Lan­caster Com­mu­nity Shel­ter. Af­ter years of deficit spend­ing, the non­profit be­hind the An­te­lope Val­ley fa­cil­ity will shut its doors.

“I’M WOR­RIED. I’m scared. I don’t know where I’m go­ing to go,” Charles Kassinger, 21 , said Wed­nes­day out­side the home­less shel­ter.

Pho­to­graphs by Ge­naro Molina Los An­ge­les Times

HOME­LESS MEN WAIT in line Wed­nes­day, hop­ing to get a bed at the Lan­caster Com­mu­nity Shel­ter. Grace Re­sources, the non­profit that op­er­ates the fi­nan­cially strug­gling fa­cil­ity, is try­ing to find new ac­com­mo­da­tions for the last of the roughly 100 peo­ple who live there.

MA­CLEAN IKIROMA, 25, right, rests at the shel­ter. Last year, Lan­caster vot­ers re­jected a pro­posed par­cel tax to fund home­less ser­vices and law en­force­ment.

STEVE BAKER, third from right, leads a prayer with mem­bers of Grace Re­sources on Wed­nes­day. Baker is ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor of the non­profit or­ga­ni­za­tion.

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