With just days left before the property at 1400 E. Mission Blvd. closes escrow and goes into the hands of Pomona, city administrators and staff are taking steps leading to establishing an emergency shelter-service center for the city’s homeless residents on the site. The city is evaluating existing buildings, such as this one, for their future use.
Then, barring any unexpected circumstances, by the end of the year the land at 1400 E. Mission Blvd. will be home to a year-round emergency shelter and service center for the homeless, the first in the city.
The aim is to have it ready in time to for the coming winter. Currently, the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority offers a winter shelter program at the Pomona Armory.
Deputy City Manager Kirk Pelser said Tuesday the property is expected to close escrow Friday or Monday at the latest. But even before the property in southeast Pomona is in the city’s control, preparations are underway to establish the emergency shelter-service center.
The city plans to erect a large tent to serve as the shelter, but officials are also checking out how to incorporate the buildings on the property.
“We’re looking at the infrastructure of the site itself,” said Benita DeFrank, Pomona’s Neighborhood Services director. “We’re working with consultants looking for an operator” for the facility.
The preparations are meant to expedite the facility’s evolution.
“We don’t want to waste time or money,” she said.
Once the facility is up and running, it will offer residents without shelter a place to stay and begin making their way back to permanent housing.
About two weeks ago, representatives from each city department walked through the property with a request from DeFrank in mind.
“I asked for an honest review of the property,” she said.
Reports from each department will start landing in her in-box this week, DeFrank said, and the information in them will play a significant role in plotting out the next steps and the timeline for establishing the facility.
So far, no glaring problems have been found on the site, but “we’re being cautious as we mover forward,” she said.
In November, the Pomona City Council authorized staffers to buy the East Mission Boulevard property from the Gene Stalians 1989 Trust for $1.7 million. In late January, the council members gave the green light for the combination emergency shelter and service center on the property.
The facility will consist of a giant semi-permanent tent-like structure resembling those used for entertainment events or for military purposes. The structure, which will accommodate 175 people, will be insulated, equipped with windows, heating and air conditioning systems. It will have a system of dividers to create areas for men, women and LGBT residents.
Portable restrooms, showers, laundry facilities and a dog kennel, will be among the features. A key component of the facility will be a centralized kitchen where nonprofits and faith-based groups that prepare meals for the homeless residents.
Through the service center, homeless individuals will be able to access basic health and behavioral health services in addition to other services.
The city expects to pay for the facility using some housing bond proceeds, DeFrank said. A consultant will also assist in determining how much it will cost to operate the program.
The city is also researching how it can access funds generated by Measure H, the Los Angeles County ballot measure that voters approved by a slim margin March 7. Measure H calls for increasing the sales tax in L.A. County by 1/4 percent sales tax that would generate about $355 million a year for 10 years to be used to prevent and address homelessness.
A group has been established that will provide oversight of the funding, DeFrank said, but “we’re waiting for that group to meet and release the parameters to get funds.”
Mayor Tim Sandoval said having the facility open will be “a huge step forward for us” as the city works to address homelessness in the city.
During a community meeting held Monday night at the Kennedy Park Community Center, one resident asked if the city would be working with neighboring cities, such as La Verne, to address homelessness.
DeFrank said the city will participate in a regional effort.
Another resident said homelessness is a problem that even the larger cities in the state have failed to address. Sandoval said countywide, there is an interest in finding ways to resolve the problem of homelessness. In the March 7 election, L.A. County voters agreed to tax themselves to raise the money needed to pay for the programs and services to get people off the street, he said.
That interest, combined with regional efforts in which each city takes on its share of assisting those living without shelter, will help make advances.
Every homeless resident has a story that led to living without shelter, Councilman Rubio Gonzalez said.
“Each one has a different set of needs,” he said. “It’s a matter of (asking) how did you get there and how can we help you?”
The new facility will help answer those questions, assist people in obtaining the services that will allow to get back into permanent housing and provide the support the need so they don’t wind up homeless again, he said.