First published in the Oct. 2 print issue of the Burbank Leader.
As of Friday, Burbank and the Salvation Army are offering a storage center where up to 60 people experiencing homelessness can put their belongings.
The Burbank Safe Storage and Help Center, referred to by city officials as the Safe, is located at 401 S. Front St., a city-owned lot. Run by the Salvation Army, the Safe is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. and hosts dozens of locked, 60-gallon containers.
Homeless adults can ask a Salvation Army worker to retrieve their assigned containers during operational hours, allowing them to access their items. City spokeswoman Simone McFarland said the Safe could also be the second location where belongings collected by Burbank employees taking down homeless encampments are stored. The city currently holds such items at another facility.
Proponents of the service said that having the storage facility could assuage homeless individuals’ worries that their belongings will be left unprotected if they leave to seek services.
Items will be held at the Safe for 90 days without an owner check-in. If a person with an assigned storage container visits the facility before those 90 days are over, that “timer” will be reset.
A Salvation Army case manager will be present at the Safe to help connect clients with other services, such as the nonprofit’s food distribution events. Some snacks and water, as well as donated clothing and blankets, will also be available at the Safe.
Wortham “Rob” Baskerville Jr., a Salvation Army social services manager who oversees the site, said he hopes to eventually bring a mobile shower unit to the location. Clients can also be referred to other services in the region, he added, with providers aiming to eventually find them housing.
“That’s the neat thing about it,” Baskerville said. People experiencing homelessness “feel comfortable when they see us, so my thing is to be able to let them know, ‘Hey, come on in, see how we can help you.’”
The city of Burbank has considered launching a storage program for homeless individuals for years. The City Council included the concept in its plan to reduce homelessness in 2017, and the idea has reappeared in many public meetings since.
The council has also expressed interest in creating transitional housing, though little progress has been made on that front. The city, in partnership with the Burbank Housing Corp., considered purchasing the Scott Motel last year for short-term housing, but ultimately decided that going that route would be too expensive.
City staff members will return to the council by the end of the year with more information regarding potential plans for transitional housing, McFarland said.
“It was needed,” Mayor Bob Frutos said of the Safe. “When a police officer makes contact and we want to get [a homeless person] services, but they have all these belongings, what do we do with them? This is another tool in the humane process of dealing with our homeless in our city.”
Burbank officials estimated the cost of the Safe at about $200,000, which was provided by Los Angeles County Measure H funds and federal Community Development Block Grant money.
Just over 290 people in Burbank were homeless in January 2020, according to the most recent count. Officials believe that number is now significantly higher due to the economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic.