First published in the April 9 print issue of the Burbank Leader.
The Burbank City Council decided this week to delay the adoption of a plan to address homelessness, asking officials to include more specific information regarding potential programs.
The city’s five-year homelessness plan will set goals regarding the issue through 2027, with the proposed 65-page document outlining a number of initiatives Burbank is undertaking or could pursue.
However, council members indicated during their Tuesday meeting that they wanted the plan to feature more metrics that would provide community members an idea of when the city will consider each new component.
Councilman Nick Schultz led the push to revise the plan, saying that he was disappointed with the consultant group the city hired to help draft it.
“I don’t think this plan is complete, and I don’t think it’s ready to be approved,” he said.
“This is our guiding document to tackle an increasingly growing problem in our community and in the region,” Schultz added. “Specifics matter, details matter, accountability to the public matters.”
As written, the plan features six goals, ranging from honing nonprofit partnerships to creating shelter and housing. The city would connect 50 unsheltered adults with resources every year, and dedicate at least a quarter of annual Community Development Block Grant funds to homeless services.
But Schultz maintained that the plan doesn’t explain how the city will achieve many of its goals. For example, he said in an interview, rather than having a plan that indicates Burbank will consider developing tiny homes, he wants a document that will provide deadlines for site identification and council discussion about the topic.
Albert Hernandez, CEO of homeless nonprofit Home Again L.A., told the council on Tuesday that, while he’s “very supportive” of the plan, he would like to see a timeline attached to each of its objectives.
“I think having something tangible and being able to … identify what are the goals and benchmarks throughout the five years, I think that would be a little bit more helpful,” said Hernandez, whose organization often works with the city to provide homeless services.
City officials said taking more time to work on the plan won’t delay the implementation of homelessness services because they will continue to develop ongoing initiatives referenced in the plan regardless of whether it is immediately adopted.
The 2020 Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count — taken before the COVID-19 pandemic — recorded 291 people experiencing homelessness in Burbank, while officials canceled the 2021 count due to a surge in COVID cases.
Marcos Gonzalez, Burbank’s housing development manager, said Tuesday that results for this year’s point-in-time count, which was conducted in February, will be available by June.
The proposed homelessness plan noted that 290 people were enrolled in a homeless shelter or housing program in 2020, though consultants noted that this figure is likely an underestimate.
Those program participants were also disproportionately Black or Hispanic, the report stated. The city purports that it has placed at least 130 people experiencing homelessness in shelter, housing or with their family members since 2019.
The City Council agreed late last year to set a goal of halving the number of unsheltered homeless people in Burbank from 2022 to 2027 — a proposal that Schultz also introduced — by finding them housing or shelter, or reunifying them with family members.
About 70% of the people in Burbank experiencing homelessness in 2019 were unsheltered.
Councilwoman Sharon Springer suggested that city staff look at a recently released set of proposals from the county’s Blue Ribbon Commission for Homelessness, while Vice Mayor Konstantine Anthony encouraged officials to gather more input from local nonprofits.
City Manager Justin Hess said he wasn’t sure when the plan would return to the City Council for consideration, but agreed with council members that passing the document doesn’t need to happen immediately.
“We’ll be thinking big, per your direction,” he said, “but with that, we’ll also look at what [are] the resources that takes, and recommendations on how we could accomplish that. … What we want to do is provide you guys with a better plan that you could actually be proud of.”