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Downtown L.A. homeless shelter to begin charging for some beds

August 20, 2010 |  2:39 pm

The Union Rescue Mission in downtown Los Angeles will begin charging for some of its beds because of overwhelming demand triggered by the recession and an inability of some guests to stop their cycle of homelessness, shelter officials said Friday.

Within a month, the homeless shelter will begin charging $7 a bed for 25 male beds and 25 female beds, said Pastor Andy Bales, director of the mission at 545 S. San Pedro St. The shelter has 268 beds for men, and 208 for women.

From the fee, $5 a day will be used to pay for programs the mission runs, and $2 will be set aside as savings for the guest, he said. The mission will begin charging the fee next month, but several participants have already volunteered for the program.

Within two months, the fees will be extended to some of the numerous families, many of them working homeless, who use the shelter, he said.

The change comes as the mission has experienced a huge increase in the number of people at its doors.

"The most trying times of United Rescue Mission history," Bales said.

Meantime, many working guests have been living at the shelter for months, sometimes years.

"They haven't developed habits that will help them break free from homelessness," he said. "I've always believed in the philosophy that people feel better about themselves when they pay their own way."

Bales said he worked for many years at the Door to Faith Mission in Des Moines, where a third of the budget was paid for by homeless guests.

"It was the best mission I've ever seen and the most empowering mission," Bales said.

But no guest would be turned away for lack of funds, he said.

-- Sam Quinones