Lunchtime at Pasadena’s Union Station. (Staff Photo by Walt Mancini)
Andrew Harvey’s thoughts about the homeless in Pasadena (“What will Pasadena do about homeless problem?,” Sept. 6) are seriously ill-informed, malicious and mean-spirited. Among other things, he demonizes all homeless people with exaggerated, unfounded generalizations and is wholly unaware of the many positive services currently offered to homeless people in this city by public agencies and nonprofits.
The fact of the matter is that the number of homeless persons in Pasadena is lower today than at any time since the first homeless count was done here in 1992. While over the last four years homelessness in Los Angeles County has increased 30 percent, it has declined 48 percent over the same period in Pasadena, with 632 men, women and children identified as homeless in the city in January 2015.
While the only acceptable number of homeless persons in our community should be zero, the progress in Pasadena toward reducing the number of its homeless can be attributed to various factors. Among them are the following examples, despite assertions by Mr. Harvey that these conditions don’t exist:
• Pasadena is one of the few cities in the San Gabriel Valley whose police department deploys a Homeless Outreach Psychiatric Evaluation (HOPE) team consisting of a sworn police officer and a social worker from the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health. Pasadena Police Department’s two HOPE Teams engage with homeless persons with the goal of connecting them to services and treatment when appropriate. This enlightened approach to working with homeless people will be reinforced by Chief Philip Sanchez’ plans to deploy a third Pasadena police HOPE Team in the near future.
• A Homeless Task Force convened by the director of the Pasadena Housing and Community Development Department and meeting monthly includes representatives from the city manager’s office, Police Department, city attorney’s office, Human Services and Recreation, the public library, the Public Health Department and nonprofit homeless services providers. Its goal is to coordinate services and long-term efforts geared to assisting local homeless residents improve their lives while ensuring the quality of life of all Pasadena’s citizens.
Union Station Homeless Services, created 42 years ago by seven Pasadena women in what is now Old Pasadena, today is the largest and most comprehensive nonprofit social service agency aiding homeless individuals and families in the San Gabriel Valley. We are proud to have been chosen last year as the lead agency to coordinate both the new Coordinated Entry System and Homeless Families Solutions System programs throughout this region, from Pasadena through Pomona.
Construction is currently under way in Pasadena on the Mar Vista Apartments, a 20-unit building of one and two-bedroom apartments for formerly homeless families. With very significant construction funding and rental subsidies provided by the city of Pasadena, development services provided by National Community Renaissance and on-site social services to be provided by Union Station Homeless Services, this facility will be the first permanent supportive housing facility of its kind to be built in the city. It is expected to go into service in twelve months.
Reducing homelessness and aiding those living on the streets to attain stability, decent housing, medical and psychological care, other services, community support and, in some cases, employment and self-sufficiency is an extremely difficult and complex task. It requires intense and effective collaboration between elected officials, local, state and national governmental agencies, nonprofit organizations, community volunteers, business leaders, congregations, and funders at all levels. In short, people of determination, vision and compassion.
We should be thankful such a collaborative framework exists in Pasadena. While there is without question a great deal more to do while hundreds live on our streets, we have created the basic foundation to eliminate the scourge of homelessness in our city. We must continue our efforts together, undeterred by those who do not share our vision.
Rabbi Marvin Gross is CEO of Union Station Homeless Services.