As cold, dry winds whipped across Santa Monica Thursday, beds at 16 winter shelters opened to the area's homeless.
The 1,500 beds at 16 shelters scattered across Los Angeles County will be open through March 15, mostly on a first-come, first-served basis, the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority anounced Thursday.
Homeless Authority officials estimated that 11,735 homeless individuals and 605 families were served by the Winter Shelter Program last year.
Councilman Bill Rosendahl praised the 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 West Side."
He demanded a report from Homeless Authority 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.
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,'' the Homeless Authority 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.
— Richie Duchon, City News Service