By Rebecca Kuzins 04/25/2013
The number of homeless people in Pasadena has decreased by almost 37 percent during the past two years, a significant drop that officials attribute to the city’s “housing first” strategy and the improved economy.
According to a preliminary report released earlier this month, 772 homeless adults and children were living in Pasadena on Jan. 23, the day the city conducted its 2013 Homeless Count. This figure is 15 percent below the 904 people counted in last year’s survey, and much lower than the record high of 1,261 persons in 2011.
Anne Lansing, co-chair of the Pasadena Housing and Homeless Network, said the decrease reflects a basic change in how the city is dealing with homelessness. For many years, Lansing explained, city outreach efforts focused on addressing the issues that cause people to become homeless, such as mental illness or drug and alcohol abuse, before seeking housing for these people. But beginning in 2005, when the city implemented a new 10-year strategy for alleviating homelessness, officials sought to “get people housed first, and then services are provided while they are housed,” Lansing explained.
Lansing also attributed the decrease to the economic recovery occurring since the Great Recession began in December 2007. Between 2005 and 2008, the homeless population decreased by 21 percent — from 1,064 to 836 individuals. But the results of the recession were evident by 2009, when there were 1,004 homeless persons — a 17 percent increase over the previous year. The numbers continued to climb, increasing 13 percent to 1,137 in 2010 and 7 percent to 1,216 two years ago.
While the decline indicates that the city and private organizations are making progress in addressing homelessness, some advocates maintain a great deal must still be done. “On the one hand it’s gratifying to know that the number has decreased,” said Marvin Gross, chief executive officer of Union Station Homeless Services. “But the 772 number still outpaces the number of beds and other available resources that we have to help rebuild people’s lives. All of our programs have been filled to capacity for the last several years.”
While the overall population declined, the gender, ethnicity, age and family composition of the city’s homeless remained relatively unchanged over the past year, with one exception: Only 7 percent (46 individuals) of the total population were ages 18 to 24 in 2013, compared with 13 percent in both 2011 (137 individuals) and 2012 (103 individuals).
According to the report, men accounted for 69 percent and women for 31 percent of this year’s homeless population. African Americans made up 36 percent of the total, followed by whites at 33 percent, Hispanic or Latinos at 22 percent, Asians or Pacific Islanders at 2 percent, and American Indians or Alaskan natives at 2 percent.
Fifteen percent of homeless persons were children age 17 or less, while 85 percent were adults, with 5 percent of these adults 62 or older. In addition, members of families made up 27 percent of the total population.