Despite efforts by the city, county and nonprofit agencies to help keep homeless families off the streets, officials at rescue missions and winter shelters in Los Angeles County said in remarks reported last Thursday that their facilities are being overwhelmed. Andy Bales, president of the Union Rescue Mission in downtown Los Angeles, said the number of homeless families staying at the mission has tripled to 45 over this time last year, the Daily News reported. At his winter shelters in Burbank, West Los Angeles, Culver City and downtown, Bales saw more families in the first three days of operation this year than the entire winter last year.

The shelters are open Dec. 1 to March 15. With their plight driven by home foreclosures, evictions and rising unemployment, Bales said he’s never seen as many homeless families seeking help before, according to the Daily News.

“I think we’re in an emergency,” Bales said. “And I think this is just the tip of the iceberg. We get vouchers from the (Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority) to put families up when they come to winter shelters and we’ve used four-fifths of the vouchers we get for the entire season already.

“We have a bigger problem now than we’ve ever dreamed of before.”

This year, LAHSA and its partner agencies are providing about 1,700 beds at 13 locations throughout the county as part of its winter shelter program, including shelters in Sylmar, Santa Clarita and Lancaster, the Daily News reported. The program supplements the 4,440 emergency shelter beds offered throughout the year.