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GROUP WANTS 5-YEAR PLAN SHELTER SITE WOULD REMAIN IN ONE PLACE.

Byline: Heather MacDonald Staff Writer

SANTA CLARITA - A nonprofit organization wants to use the parking lot at the Via Princessa Metrolink Station as an emergency winter homeless shelter for the next five years, officials said Friday.

The Santa Clarita Community Development Corporation will ask the city Planning Commission to approve plans for the shelter Sept. 16, a move that has already drawn strong objections from neighboring residents, who complained last year about the shelter's impact on crime and property values in Canyon Country.

``The time, effort and resources that go into securing approval year to year can be used far more effectively to help people who are trying to break the cycle of homelessness, and to apply greater efforts to finding a suitable permanent location,'' said Tim Davis, president of the corporation.

However, nearby homeowners said they were outraged by the community development corporation's plans, which they said would ruin their neighborhood.

``We now have a permanent homeless population that uses our pool for baths, (urinates) in our bushes and sleeps on our front walks,'' homeowner Mark Siegen. ``Another year, not to mention five years, would be devastating for our community.''

Davis, who met with Siegen and other angry homeowners Thursday night, acknowledged that many of the shelter's neighbors do not want to see it return for another winter, much less become a permanent fixture in their neighborhood through 2008.

``I don't think the problems are as severe as Mr. Siegen says they are,'' Davis said. ``But I'm not going to call the gentleman a liar. We have a difference of opinion.''

The community development corporation intends to use the money saved by not having to rebuild the facility each year to buy or lease the modular buildings that make up the shelter on a long-term basis and launch a fund- raising campaign for a permanent home, Davis said.

The modular buildings will not be used during the spring and summer months, Davis said.

For the past three years, the city allocated $45,000 from its general fund each year to help fund the shelter, which operates for 105 days from December through March.

This year, however, the state's financial woes forced the city to trim its budget. If the city contributes any funding to the shelter this year, the money would come from a federal Community Development Block Grant.

A study released last year found that the best location for a permanent homeless shelter is in a county-owned warehouse on Sierra Highway, not far from the Via Princessa station. The all-volunteer group would like to build a year-round transitional living facility that would provide job training and other social services, as well as an emergency shelter during the winter months.

But the Santa Clarita City Council has been unable - and thus far unwilling - to help the organization purchase a permanent shelter.

Families make up about half of the city's homeless population, according to survey conducted last spring by the Santa Clarita City Council's Homeless Advisory Task Force. Officials estimate that about 10,000 people in Santa Clarita are at risk of becoming homeless.

The Santa Clarita Planning Commission will meet at 7 p.m. Sept. 16 in the council chambers at City Hall, 23920 Valencia Blvd.

Heather MacDonald, (661) 257-5257

heather.macdonald(at)dailynews.com
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Sep 6, 2003
Words:546
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