COLD WINTER NIGHTS JAM HOMELESS SHELTER BEDS.
On any other frosty night, Armando Estrella may have ridden a bus all night with no destination in mind, his only goal to escape the bitter cold until morning.
But Wednesday, Estrella, 71, slept warmly in one of 45 cots wedged into a makeshift dormitory in the cafeteria at L.A. Family Housing in North Hollywood.
``It's a roof over your head,'' said Estrella, a retired school bus driver. ``It's better than sleeping outdoors. It helps.''
Although temperatures dipped below freezing several nights this week, Wednesday was the first night that 2,000 winter shelter beds were available throughout the county, said Siri Khalsa, a spokeswoman for the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority.
Officials expect the program to be popular this week, as the cold snap continues. Temperatures in the San Fernando Valley are expected to be in the low- to mid-60s today, with lows tonight in the 40s.
The agency will provide the beds at 15 locations through March 15 at a cost of $3.5 million, Khalsa said.
Those beds can house only a small fraction of the estimated 40,000 people who go without shelter each night in Los Angeles County, Khalsa said.
``These are only minimal emergency shelters,'' she said. ``This is not going to solve the problem of homelessness.''
In addition to North Hollywood, winter shelters opened Wednesday in more than a dozen locations, including Glendale and Lancaster.
Program officials hope to get approval today to open an additional shelter in Sylmar, Khalsa said.
On a cold night, 70 to 80 people may vie for the 45 winter beds at the North Hollywood shelter, program director John Horn said.
``If they're No. 46, they're out of luck,'' he said. ``It sounds harsh, but we literally cannot squeeze one more person into the space.''
The North Hollywood shelter stopped accepting walk-ins last year after neighbors complained about homeless people camping on residential streets during the day as they waited for the shelter to reopen at night, Horn said.
Clients must now obtain a ticket at an off-site location and catch a ride to the shelter in a van.
It takes at least $150,000 and a staff of 20 to 30 to offer the winter shelter beds, Horn said. By 8 a.m., when shelter occupants must leave each day, the cots must be cleared away and the room turned into a cafeteria again.
Andrea Cavanaugh, (818)713-3669
The local emergency shelters that opened Wednesday include:
--North Hollywood, 7843 Lankershim Blvd., (818) 982-4091.
--Glendale, 220 E. Colorado St., (818) 974-1193.
--Lancaster, 44611 Yucca Ave., (661) 945-7524.
Call for more information, because some shelters do not accept walk-ins.
Former hair stylist Dan Dufort has been living on the street for the past three years. With no family, he is hoping to stay in a shelter during the cold nights. He rests at the corner of Stagg Street and Simpson Avenue in North Hollywood.
Hans Gutknecht/Staff Photographer
SHELTER LOCATIONS (see text)
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|Publication:||Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)|
|Date:||Dec 2, 2004|
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