The Board of Supervisors Tuesday approved a plan to convert a winter shelter in Sylmar to year-round bridge housing for homeless women seeking a permanent place to live.
Nearly one-third of homeless individuals in Los Angeles County are women, but only 17 percent of emergency shelter beds are dedicated to women, said Supervisor Sheila Kuehl who championed the board motion.
“Women desperately need housing and services,” Kuehl said, adding that they are often uncomfortable spending the night in a coed shelter.
Safety is a particular concern for women, and shelters are typically open only overnight.
“Who knows what was happening during the day on the street,” Kuehl said.
The new facility will be operated in the Sylmar Armory and will be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
It will offer 85 beds and social services in the San Fernando Valley, where an estimated 2,762 women are homeless and there are currently no women- only shelters.
“This short-term crisis housing will include access to long-term housing options and supportive systems to help these women rebuild their lives,” said Supervisor Kathryn Barger, who co-authored the motion.
Kuehl called the shelter “a community solution.”
Though she acknowledged that support is “never 100 percent,” Kuehl thanked community leaders who helped facilitate public hearings and outreach to local residents.
“Homelessness is not a problem to be solved in one district,” Kuehl said. “We need to pick up our responsibility countywide.”
Ann Job of the Sylmar Neighborhood Council helped build local support.
“Voters passed Measure H with strong support,” Job said, referring to the quarter-cent sales tax increase approved in March. “Now it is incumbent upon Sylmar and many other communities in L.A. to step up and help provide homes for everyone.”
Ultimately, Kuehl said, the county hopes to buy the armory from the National Guard and make more extensive renovations. For now, it will lease the building and do limited work to rehabilitate the building, using Measure H funding.
A county source said start-up costs were preliminarily estimated at $500,000.
–City News Service