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SYLMAR ARMORY TO WARM HOMELESS.

Byline: Mary Beth Alexander Daily News Staff Writer

Starting today, homeless men and women in the San Fernando Valley will have a place to go at night for food, showers and a bed to sleep in during the winter months.

The Sylmar Army National Guard armory will open its doors for the Winter Shelter Program, a city and county program that runs from mid-December through February.

Each night around 5:30 p.m. the armory at 12860 Arroyo St. will begin taking in visitors, who can stay until 8 the next morning. The armory can hold up to 150 people a night, said Joe Zuniga, a program coordinator.

The armory is the only San Fernando Valley facility participating in the program.

The winter shelter operated out of the Van Nuys armory on Victory Boulevard up until last year. In October, Zuniga said, program officials found out the facility was closed because of recently discovered damage caused by the 1994 Northridge Earthquake.

The shelter was relocated to the Sylmar facility, which is a little smaller but still able to house the same number as the Van Nuys armory, Zuniga said. He predicted 120 or more people would stay at the shelter nightly during the winter months.

But Zuniga said he didn't anticipate the frequent capacity crowds the shelter has received in years past in Van Nuys. That facility, he said, was more centrally located.

``I think in the long run, that the change is going to make a difference in years past, just because people don't want to travel so far,'' Zuniga said. ``A lot of people are on foot, and don't choose to use our transportation.''

Shuttles will run from four Valley locations from 5:30 to 9 p.m., and will return shelter residents to their stops the next day. Residents can receive transportation to the shelter from the Valley Shelter, 7843 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood; Pacoima Community Center, 11243 Glenoaks Blvd.; Van Nuys Civic Center, 14410 Sylvan St.; and People in Progress, 8140 Sunland Blvd., Sun Valley.

The Valley Shelter is among many throughout the county hosting the winter program starting today. The facilities are open to single men and women. Families or sick individuals seeking shelter will be referred to other agencies.

Information about the shelter program is available on the Los Angeles Homeless Services hotline, (800) 548-6047.

This year, the program will be different from past years because shelters also will offer counseling and referrals to agencies that provide job training and health screenings.

``I'm anticipating getting some of the people's needs met on a permanent basis,'' said Lillian Jeffries, director for His Sheltering Arms shelter in South Central Los Angeles. ``My focus is to get them employed as much as possible.''

The first phase of the winter program began Nov. 18, when shelters were allowed to operate on nights when the weather was going to be bad.

In Sylmar, the armory took in visitors several nights, including four nights in a row last week because of the rain.

But, occupancy was relatively light, Zuniga said, with only about 50 people a night.

``Once we get to the continuous phase of the program, that's when the numbers jump up,'' Zuniga said.
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Dec 16, 1996
Words:535
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