By Eric Pierce
NORWALK – With the cold winter months looming, state and county officials have proposed opening a temporary homeless shelter in Norwalk, but the plan has drawn a rebuke from residents.
The proposed shelter is located at 13200 Bloomfield Ave., just north of Norwalk Community Hospital. The property is currently owned by the state of California and was formerly a youth correctional reception center.
Under the proposal, the property would be leased to L.A. County, which would then sublease it to a provider agency to operate the shelter.
According to a city staff report, the shelter would house about 112 people but only from 5 p.m. to 7 a.m. daily, unless there is inclement weather, in which case the shelter would be open 24 hours a day.
No walk-up service is available; instead, clients are bussed to and from the shelter from designated locations.
L.A. County Supervisor Janice Hahn endorsed the plan, calling it a “great partnership” between Norwalk, L.A. County and the state.
“My office is extremely supportive of working with the City of Norwalk to open this site to find a solution to the homeless crisis in the County,” Hahn wrote in a letter to Norwalk mayor Luigi Vernola. “The current site provides an ideal location for a future shelter program.”
According to Hahn, two organizations have visited the site and will submit proposals to operate the facility: Whittier First Day and Los Angeles-based People Assisting the Homeless.
Norwalk residents, however, balked at having a homeless shelter in their backyard.
“Many of these people are mentally ill and should not be in close proximity to our schools and children,” Mike Helm wrote on Facebook. “I don't know the answer but Norwalk doesn't need to attract anymore urban-outdoorsmen until we can sort them out.”
“We can't seem to help our city as it is with all the gang violence, shootings, and graffiti, so let's take on another issue we can't handle,” added resident Vanessa Rodriguez. “The homeless we have now don't get any assistance which is leading to lots of drug activity, unsafe neighborhoods and more.”
Others, however, said a homeless shelter would benefit Norwalk by taking homeless off the streets.
“I’m not seeing the negative,” said Norwalk resident Natalie Torres. “It will be run by an outside agency. The property they want to occupy is already quite dilapidated...they will be bussing them in and out. (No walk-up service). I️ think priority should go to the homeless already in our community.
“I️ don’t see the harm in providing a warm dry place to sleep when it’s cold. Every community should do this.”
The Norwalk City Council was scheduled to discuss the proposal Tuesday but postponed discussion to a future date.