By Marshall Allen
Ever-increasing numbers at the Bad Weather Shelter are forcing organizers to confront a daunting challenge: find a new home for the city’s most service-resistant homeless population.
The number of clients using the Bad Weather Shelter has increased each year since it opened in 1986.
This season, the facility reached the one-night high of 200 people and several nights were in the 180s, said David Kotce, the shelter’s program director. About 60 a night are parents or children, he said.
“If things keep going the way they’re going, we won’t fit there anymore.” Kotce said of the Pasadena Covenant Church, which houses the shelter’s single adults.
A 2005 count showed there are about 1,200 homeless people in Pasadena on a given night.
For 16 years, volunteers have been serving hot food and laying out dozens of cots to transform Pasadena Covenant’s gym into a dormitory. Over the past three seasons, Lake Avenue Church has also been enlisted to house the growing number of homeless.
The locations are ideal, shelter officials said, because they’re on Lake Avenue, just north of the Foothill (210) Freeway, which allows access to public transportation and causes a minimal disturbance to neighbors. The shelter is open Jan. 1 to Feb. 14 and on cold or wet nights in December. It remains open on a weather-activated basis in March.
The Bad Weather Shelter made program improvements this year, said Frank Clark, executive director of the Ecumenical Council of Pasadena Area Churches, the nonprofit organization that runs the shelter. For the first time, case managers were provided to help connect clients with services designed to help them off the streets.
Liz Henderson managed a new family day shelter at Union Station Foundation, where parents received counseling services and case management while employees cared for their children. She said about 20 families were involved and all took steps toward finding a home by entering a transitional housing facility or family shelter, or connecting with family.
Meantime, Clark is organizing a task force charged with finding a new location for the Bad Weather Shelter. The group will include leaders from the faith and business communities, as well as city officials, Clark said.
The shelter faces a significant challenge, Clark added, noting that neighborhood associations hold a great deal of sway in city politics, he said.
“Anybody who understands the politics and dynamics of this city knows it’s not going to be a slam-dunk thing,” Clark said.
But, at the same time, the city will be judged by how it takes care of its homeless, Clark said. The shelter this year operates on a budget of about $90,000, about half of that funded by the city.
As homelessness has become a problem over the past several decades, it has hardly received adequate attention or resources, Clark said. Rather than a patch-work approach, he said, what’s needed is a broad commitment from the entire community.
Mayor Bill Boagaard agreed the shelter plays an important role in the city, and said it will require wide-ranging support to find a new location.
But community life in Pasadena often comes down to land use, Bogaard noted, which presents challenges for a city that’s so built out.