The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously this week to keep a 24-hour shelter in Antelope Valley open through the end of October, extending a declaration that homelessness in the area is a crisis.
Supervisor Kathryn Barger recommended keeping the 93-bed shelter open at the High Desert Multi-Ambulatory Care Center in Lancaster.
“Not only is this (MACC) facility providing immediate respite from extreme weather 24-hours a day, seven days a week, but it is also providing critical bridge housing resources to assist individuals in permanently exiting cycles of homelessness,” Barger’s motion reads.
The Salvation Army has operated the temporary shelter out of two buildings at the outpatient medical center since November, as part of the county’s winter shelter program. The county opened a second temporary shelter at the Lancaster National Guard Armory, which closed March 10 when winter hours ended countywide.
Temperatures in the desert climate can be equally threatening in summer as in winter and the number of homeless individuals in the Antelope Valley has grown dramatically, by 50 percent from 2016 to 2017, according to a point-in-time count by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority.
The estimated 4,559 homeless people in the region have had limited options since the privately-run Lancaster Community Shelter shut down in the summer of 2017, citing a lack of funding. It was the only drop-in shelter in the region at that time.
Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas co-authored the motion, which allows the MACC shelter to continue to operate on a temporary basis, avoiding some of the regulation that would be involved if it were a permanent shelter.
Funding will come from Measure H, the quarter-cent county sales tax increase that took effect in October. Lancaster residents voted down a 2016 ballot measure to fund a larger, permanent shelter through a local parcel tax, with only 34 percent of voters in favor.
However, Lancaster has approved plans for permanent supportive housing at 32nd Street West and Avenue I, a development known as Kensington Campus. A spokesman for Barger said the project will include permanent supportive housing units, as well as interim and crisis housing, with a tentative completion date of April 2019.