“They’re here whether there is a shelter or not,” he said. “The majority of people I’ve dealt with (at past shelters) are willing and ready to work.” Paul Novak, an Antonovich aide, said he plans report back the results “before any decisions are made.” The Santa Clarita Community Development Corporation has operated the shelter for the past eight years under contract with the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority. But before the agency could grant SCCDC this year’s contract, the nonprofit organization must have a shelter site – currently the county’s responsibility. “We’ll just have to wait and see what happens,” Andy Pattantyus, an SCCDC board member, said Thursday. “We’re saddened and disappointed by the reaction. We came purely to answer questions and be factual.” Some believe fear mongering has made any discussion of the issue difficult. Prior to the meeting, a second anonymous flier circulated prior in Castaic tied the proposed shelter to a “major crime increase” and urged residents to attend the Town Council meeting to protect the community from “sex offenders, panhandling, loitering, drug abuse … and a decrease in your quality of life.” “It is not conducive to a healthy discussion when there are anonymous fliers circulating misinformation,” said Jana Cooley, Antonovich’s children’s services deputy. Shelter security searches each person, and anyone found possessing weapons, drugs or alcohol would be arrested, organizers said. Speakers – many identified themselves as law enforcement professionals – claimed the shelter would encourage homeless to linger and bring crime to this unincorporated community of of more than 22,000 northwest of Santa Clarita. One offered a petition of more than 600 signatures against the shelter plan. Another presented statistics showing crime increases near the Via Princessa Metrolink station in Canyon Country, where the shelter was staged for two years. Resident Chuck Kovach compared chronic homelessness to a cancer. “You don’t transplant it to another part and hope for immunity,” he said. “You cannot provide help for people who don’t want to help themselves.” Sheriff’s officials acknowledged that crime has trended up in that community, but it bares no direct link with the shelter. “There is an increase to begin with, which is related to residential growth,” said Sgt. Roger Wallace, who oversees the unincorporated communities west of Interstate 5. “But there isn’t an increase in reported crime in the area due to the shelter. (Crime statistics) are very subjective. It takes an in-depth investigation.” “We heard a lot of information tonight,” Lewis said. “Some of that is speculation; some of it a lot of fear. There are genuine people in the community that need our help.” He added he was skeptical an active criminal would go to a shelter sitting behind the gates of the county lockup. Still, some town council members were not swayed “With the homeless shelter in Castaic, I do not see a community benefit with it,” Kelly said. Fancett said the community already has to deal with occasional jail escapes: “I feel we’ve done our fair share.” Lewis supports the shelter, but faulted officials with failing to offer a strong case before the public. He said the lack of a location next year doesn’t inspire confidence. “I don’t think the city or the county has come up with valid, solid answers,” he said. “There has not been enough information. … I think everybody is doing a horrible job. I don’t think this will be resolved in the period of time you want it opened.” Eugene Tong, (661) 257-5253 [email protected] 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! The visitor’s parking lot at the Pitchess jail – separated from the nearest residential street by an eight-lane Interstate 5 – was suggested as this winter’s county shelter site. It would offer warm cots and a hot meal for up to 40 people from Dec. 1 to March 15, then reopen at a yet-undetermined city site in December 2006. Town council members John Kunak, Bart Davidson, Paul Fancett and Robert Kelly voted in support of a resolution against locating the shelter at the jail or anywhere else in Castaic. Councilmen Lloyd Carder, Phil Hof and Bob Lewis dissented. Council members Bruce Van Wetter abstained, while Joanne Carras and Patti Gustafsson were absent during voting. “I’m still not convinced that this couldn’t work,” said Kunak, president of the local policy advisory council organized by Antonovich. “But if it’s going to cause the community to be on edge in these winter months, I’m not sure if I can support it.” Hof said there was nothing to fear from local homeless, and urged residents to open their community to those less fortunate. CASTAIC – The Castaic Town Council rejected a county proposal to operate a seasonal homeless shelter on the grounds of the Pitchess Detention Center, a decision that has forced officials to reassess what they thought would be a longterm solution in staging the embattled relief program. The narrow 4-3 vote Wednesday night came in the second of two contentious meetings on the issue as more than a dozen angry residents faulted local and county officials for even considering a plan they believe would increase crime and damage their quality of life, even though sheriff’s officials assured it wasn’t the case at past shelter sites. “I’m a little bit more concerned about the children in the neighborhood,” resident Starlet Derby said before than 100 at the standing-room only crowd. “A lot of homeless people – they should be heavily medicated. … I don’t think it’s the wisest choice.” Under the proposal from 5th District county Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich, a Santa Clarita Valley-based emergency winter shelter would be staged at four to six sites in the unincorporated areas and the city of Santa Clarita, with each jurisdiction hosting on alternate years.