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Budget deficit forces day labor center to shut down

Move drives workers to Home Depot's curbs and parking lot.

July 15, 2011|By Veronica Rocha and Melanie Hicken; veronica.rocha@latimes.com, melanie.hicken@latimes.com
  • Day laborers crowd around a person, second from right, who was looking for two workers at the parking lot of the Home Depot at 5040 San Fernando Rd. in Glendale on Wednesday, July 13, 2011. (Raul Roa/Staff Photographer)
Day laborers crowd around a person, second from right,…

WEST GLENDALE — Catholic Charities officials have closed the day labor center across from the Home Depot in Glendale after the city, facing a multi-million budget deficit, cut its subsidy for the center.

Created at a time when Glendale banned soliciting from curbs — a law city officials agreed to relax after they were challenged in court — the center has in recent years struggled to attract skeptical workers, who prefer to seek work curbside, officials said.

“When our lawsuit was resolved, we relaxed our rules,” said City Councilman Ara Najarian. “There really was no incentive for people to use the day labor center.”

The City Council voted last month to eliminate the city’s $90,000 subsidy as members worked to fill a projected deficit of $18 million in the General Fund, which pays for basic public services.

In turn, the operators of the center, Catholic Charities of Los Angeles, say they had no choice but to close up shop as of July 1. The center had guaranteed a minimum hourly wage of $8, restrooms, water, telephone access and a waiting room for workers.

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“It was a relevant program. There was more organization. People could come needing some help and they could be picked up for work,” said Moed Khan, director of the San Fernando region for Catholic Charities. “I guess that’s pervasive these days, all of the cuts to government. It’s sad, but that’s the reality.”

The move could raise tensions between neighbors, laborers seeking work and Home Depot, which calls on Glendale police to enforce its no-trespassing clause for solicitors.

“We maintain our no-solicitation policy that prohibits solicitation of any kind on our property,” Home Depot spokeswoman Kathryn Gallagher said in an email.

Since the July 1 closure, more workers have turned to the corner of San Fernando Road and Harvard Street to find employment — pushing other regulars into the Home Depot parking lot, where they run the risk of being kicked out or cited by police.

But some workers say it’s a risk they are willing to take for a couple hours of work.

“I used to work a lot more … but since construction dropped, there is less money,” said Juan Carlos Gonzalez as he sought work inside the parking lot Wednesday morning.

Most days, Gonzalez, a 38-year-old East Los Angeles resident, arrives at the Home Depot site about 8 a.m. and will work as much as he can before heading to his second job at a factory.

While the work often is daunting, Gonzalez, who spoke in Spanish, said he must press on to provide for his six children.

“It’s hard, but there is always a chance to get even a small job,” he said. “And because we are immigrants, it’s much more difficult to get work.

Glendale Police Sgt. John Gilkerson, who oversees police enforcement of the area, said that so far, there has been no change in crime activity or complaints since the day labor center closed.

“I am sorry to see it go because it serviced a certain percentage of workers,” he said.

Enforcement in the area regarding the workers was mostly driven by complaints from businesses and residents, Gilkerson added.

 
 

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