Los Angeles County

LANCASTER — On the heels of news that the Antelope Valley’s homeless population increased nearly 3% in the past year, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors today will consider a motion by Supervisor Kathryn Barger to extend a 20-month declaration of a  “shelter crisis” in the Antelope Valley for an additional six months.

The current declaration is set to expire at the end of June. If Barger’s motion is approved, the proposed extension would allow the continued operation through December of a 100-bed emergency homeless shelter that opened last November in buildings adjoining the former High Desert Hospital in Lancaster.

The Board first declared a shelter crisis in October 2017, after the closure two months earlier, of the 28-year-old, 108-bed Lancaster Community Shelter. Barger’s proposed motion would be the fourth extension of the declaration.

The Antelope Valley’s homeless population increased 2.8% to 3,293 people, according to 2019 Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count data released last week by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority.

“In the Antelope Valley, weather conditions are severe year-round,” Barger’s motion said. “The variability of the desert climate can result in extremely hot temperatures during the day and dangerously cold temperatures at night. Unsheltered individuals are particularly vulnerable. They are at high risk of injury and harm due to exposure to these extreme elements and the other health, safety and welfare-related circumstances and consequences of being homeless.”

The temporary shelter, on 60th Street West south of Avenue I, is operated by the Salvation Army. Besides providing beds for homeless people, the Salvation Army staff also offers “bridge programming” to link individuals to long-term housing and employment.

The “shelter crisis” declarations allow the county to temporarily suspend regulations that otherwise would prohibit use of the former county hospital’s buildings, some of which are more than 60 years old. The hospital was converted into an outpatient facility in 2003 and closed in 2014.

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