No shel­ter in An­te­lope Val­ley

Los Angeles Times - - OPINION - T was alarm­ing to

Isee the Lan­caster Com­mu­nity Shel­ter, the only source of nightly hous­ing for home­less peo­ple in the An­te­lope Val­ley, close on Mon­day. In this high-desert area where tem­per­a­tures soar on sum­mer days and plum­met on win­ter nights, the 104-bed shel­ter of­ten had to turn away at least a dozen peo­ple look­ing for a bed.

For­tu­nately, the Los An­ge­les Home­less Ser­vices Author­ity and a cadre of non­profit ser­vice providers scram­bled and re­lo­cated the peo­ple who used the shel­ter. The clo­sure also ac­cel­er­ated the ef­fort to bring to­gether county and An­te­lope Val­ley of­fi­cials, non­prof­its and LAHSA to map out a sub­stan­tial, long-term ap­proach to get­ting peo­ple in this area out of home­less­ness for good. If it bears fruit, that long-needed ef­fort will be the best out­come of this emer­gency.

The non­profit Grace Re­sources may have run the shel­ter with the best of in­ten­tions, but it was never go­ing to of­fer a path out of home­less­ness for its nightly res­i­dents. L.A. County Su­per­vi­sor Kathryn Barger, who rep­re­sents this area, and fel­low Su­per­vi­sor Mark-Ri­d­ley Thomas had al­ready be­gun to put to­gether a con­sor­tium to tackle home­less­ness in the An­te­lope Val­ley, where nearly 4,500 home­less peo­ple were found in this year’s count — up 50% from the year be­fore.

The shel­ter clos­ing didn’t make home­less­ness an ur­gent prob­lem. It’s been an ur­gent prob­lem in this area — as in the rest of Los An­ge­les County.

Here is where the con­sor­tium should start: by help­ing the hand­ful of non­profit ser­vice providers al­ready in the area func­tion bet­ter fi­nan­cially and ex­pand where they can; by grow­ing new com­mu­nity-based or­ga­ni­za­tions; and by re­cruit­ing es­tab­lished providers to the area. Lan­caster Mayor R. Rex Par­ris, who has made no se­cret of his dis­like for some of the cur­rent ser­vice providers, can take a more con­struc­tive lead­er­ship role here. There are plenty of re­spected ser­vice providers through­out the county. He should reach out to some, see if he can work with them — and they with him — and in­vite them to Lan­caster.

Like else­where in the county, both short­term and per­ma­nent sup­port­ive hous­ing in the An­te­lope Val­ley are scarce but cru­cial. Of­fi­cials and non­prof­its need to scour the area for hous­ing that can help home­less peo­ple mak­ing the tran­si­tion from the streets to per­ma­nent hous­ing, in­clud­ing apart­ments, mo­tel rooms and ho­tel rooms. Barger’s of­fice com­piled a list of dif­fer­ent prospects, most of them iden­ti­fied by the Val­ley Oa­sis ser­vice provider in the An­te­lope Val­ley. Now the su­per­vi­sor needs to put her clout into get­ting land­lords to work with the county to make sure home­less peo­ple re­ally get housed.

Ev­ery­one has a part to play in this — the su­per­vi­sor, the elected of­fi­cials of Lan­caster and Palm­dale, the non­prof­its, LAHSA and lo­cal res­i­dents. We can de­bate whether Barger’s pre­de­ces­sor, Mike Antonovich — for whom she served as chief of staff — should have done more about home­less­ness in the An­te­lope Val­ley a few years ago; re­gard­less, the prob­lem is now Barger’s to tackle. So far, at least, she’s win­ning ku­dos in this seem­ingly dis­con­nected part of the county, where lo­cal of­fi­cials feel alien­ated from and dis­re­spected by L.A. County power bro­kers.

So with that kind of good­will in place and the be­gin­nings of a plan, Barger should let noth­ing stop her from pow­er­ing through on this with fo­cus and ur­gency and get­ting more peo­ple per­ma­nently housed.

Yes, the com­mu­ni­ties of An­te­lope Val­ley need to be in­volved in this. But peo­ple need to re­al­ize, first and fore­most, that mak­ing a dent in home­less­ness means hav­ing home­less peo­ple liv­ing and work­ing suc­cess­fully in their com­mu­ni­ties. Any­one who be­lieves that clos­ing the Grace Re­sources shel­ter near down­town Lan­caster meant that home­less peo­ple would some­how van­ish into the desert — or an­other city — doesn’t grasp that home­less­ness is as or­ganic to the An­te­lope Val­ley as it is to the city of L.A.

Par­ris says he un­der­stands that home­less peo­ple only es­cape that scourge when they have long-term hous­ing and ser­vices. He and other elected of­fi­cials in the An­te­lope Val­ley need to make clear to their con­stituents that the way to deal with home­less peo­ple is to con­cen­trate on pro­vid­ing them long-term hous­ing, not fix­at­ing on how they got there.

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