GLENDALE — The homeless shelter at the Glendale National Guard Armory will be open around the clock through Thursday after state officials on Monday approved 24-hour access as heavy rainfall continued to batter the region.
They left open the possibility of extending the expanded access if the weather did not improve as expected.
But local service providers for the homeless criticized the state's response as too slow since it came on the third day of steady rain.
"I'm glad they are going to stay open, but I'm looking out my window at people walking in the cold rain right now who could have had shelter," said Andy Bales, chief executive of the Union Rescue Mission.
Eimago, Inc., a subsidiary of the rescue mission, operates the Glendale shelter and other emergency winter shelters through March 15 via a contract with the Los Angeles County Homeless Services Authority. The shelters typically are open from 5 p.m. to 5:30 a.m., at which point people must return to the streets.
Bales said the decision to open up access to the shelters took too long to make.
"They never hesitated to keep them open when it rained last year," he said. "I don't know what their problem is this year."
But Greg Renick, a spokesman for the state California Emergency Management Agency, said the formal request to stay open around the clock was not received until Monday.
Shortly before noon on Monday, Bonnie Corona huddled under the overhang of the Glendale Presbyterian Church across from the Central Library, just blocks away from the Glendale Armory.
With the rainstorm not letting up and the winter shelter not open until 5 p.m., Corona said she didn't know where else to go to stay dry.
"We need something out here," she said, sitting with several other homeless people seeking shelter under the church's overhang. "This is going to make it worse because everyone's going to get sick."
One man who stayed at the armory Sunday night was so soaked that his hands had become visibly water-logged, Bales said.
"You've got people with medical problems, diabetes, arthritis," said regular shelter client Shan James. "Me personally, I can make do. But some people are just tired. How do you sit there and treat your citizens like that?"
Mark Horvath and Richard Younger, outreach case managers with homeless services provider PATH Achieve Glendale, visited with Corona, James and others gathered at the church before heading to Burbank to distribute bus tokens to help people get to the armory.
"This is horrible," said Horvath, who is also founder of the Invisible People project, which attempts to bring attention to the issue through his personal blog. "Kicking thousands of people out into the rain makes no logical sense."