The Burbank City Council voted Tuesday to allocate $1.86 million in federal grants to fund the development of Burbank’s first homeless shelter.
The funding comes from President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan, or ARP, passed by the Congress in 2021 to aid the country in its recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. The bill made way for billions in planning grant dollars to state and local governments.
To date, Burbank has centered its homelessness policy around a “services-oriented approach,” Mayor Konstantine Anthony told the Leader. This has led to a reduction in the number of homeless individuals in Burbank, according to a recent count, a rare achievement among cities in the region which are seeing a rise in homeless populations after the COVID-19 pandemic, he said.
In June, the council ordered city planning staff to investigate the feasibility of a tiny homes village or other alternative shelters to be built on city land.
One of the city’s partners in homelessness services, Home Again Los Angeles, which has helped more than 600 homeless families back into permanent housing since 2010, endorses the city’s shelter plans.
“The idea of allocating 95% of total entitled funds for the development of a non-congregate shelter is a great idea from my perspective and I fully support this,” wrote Albert Hernandez, chief executive officer at Home Again Los Angeles.
City staff is currently in the pre-planning process to build a Homeless Services Center with a shelter with private rooms for individuals to use for a temporary period while permanent housing is secured.
Two city-owned sites have been identified for the development of the first shelter, but no plans have been finalized. Upon completing pre-planning for the homeless services center, staff will present the project to City Council for consideration. When the council approved the ARP funding on Tuesday, the action committed the city to use funding for this purpose.
“Our intent is to provide humane, individualized approaches that will help with supportive services and the ability to provide shelter when it is needed,” said Simone McFarland, Burbank’s assistant director of community development, who presented the report to City Council in June.
The tiny homes project proposal currently consists of 27 fenced-in cabins with electricity, heat and air conditioning, personal storage, kitchenettes and shared bathrooms. The overall project timeframe for development is between 18 and 23 months, and the estimated construction cost is $3 million. Additional funding outside of the recently awarded ARP grants would be allocated from the city’s general fund.
The proposed tiny-homes project would allow for as many as 50 individuals to live onsite for three-month durations. Each duration could be extended to six months for an individual who is “working toward bettering themselves and is working to obtain permanent housing,” McFarland said.
First published in the April 1 print issue of the Burbank Leader.