The Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority today opened about 1,500 new beds for the region's homeless to use during the coldest, wettest part of the year.
The beds at 16 shelters scattered across Los Angeles County will be open through March 15, mostly on a first-come, first-served basis.
The Winter Shelter Program is jointly funded by the city and county.
Area nonprofits provide the day-to-day services, which include temporary overnight shelter, meals and a range of support services. The services are "an important conduit for moving individuals and families out of homelessness and into more stable living and housing opportunities,'' LAHSA said in a statement.
Access to the shelters is on a first-come, first-served basis for individuals. Families were urged to call the county's 2-1-1 line to be connected with homelessness service providers.
LAHSA officials estimate that 11,735 homeless individuals and 605 families were served by the Winter Shelter Program last year.
Councilman Bill Rosendahl praised the Winter Shelter Program, but said that homelessness on Venice Beach and other parts of the Westside demand a year-round shelter. There is one homeless shelter for families in Culver City and a small shelter for individuals in Santa Monica.
"Venice beach has become a spillover from skid row,'' Rosendahl said during Tuesday's City Council meeting. "The homeless issue is out of control on the Westside.''
He demanded a report from LAHSA Executive Director Mike Arnold by Feb. 1 on what local, state and federal officials need to do in order to keep more Westside homeless beds and services available year-round.
"I agree the Westside has a significant shortage of all homeless shelters,'' Arnold told the council. He said money would be the biggest obstacle.
"Just hanging on to the resources that we have invested in homeless services and housing has become extremely challenging,'' he said.