Union Station Homeless Services will be the lead agency in an expanded effort to eradicate chronic homelessness among veterans, other individuals and families, all across the San Gabriel Valley.
The non-profit agency announced two new initiatives they started in collaboration with 47 other agencies in the region during the fifth annual Homeless Summit held by the San Gabriel Valley Consortium on Homelessness Thursday in Pasadena. The programs were initiated with the help of major funding by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority and United Way Los Angeles.
“Here in the San Gabriel Valley, Union Station and its partners are leading the way to implement a nationwide effort,“ said Union Station Homeless Services CEO Rabbi Marvin Gross.
The two initiatives are Coordinated Entry System (CES) and Homeless Family Solutions System (HFSS), databases which hope to equalize the access to resources. Although the programs have already been in use by some agencies in areas of Los Angeles County, this is the first collaborative effort by several agencies in one region.
“What the CES and the HFSS hope to do is to equalize the resources so that the people that will benefit most and need those services most are getting access to those services,” said Gregg Von Fempe, chief program officer with Union Station.
“These two programs will utilize evidence-based best practices including housing first and permanent support of housing,” added Gross.
Using a standardized assessment, homeless individuals and families will be more precisely identified, and those that are the most vulnerable or at-risk will be matched with the appropriate housing opportunities in a now region-wide inventory of housing vacancies through CES and HFSS.
During a pilot project of 100 days over the summer, Union Station assessed 380 homeless individuals and families in the Pasadena area only. Of those, 60 were identified as high-risk and in the end 40 were helped with housing.
One of the responsibilities of Union Station as lead agency in the collaborative is to train providers and staff of the 40-plus agencies.
“We’ve held training for providers and have trained more than 90 staff from the other 47 agencies,” said Von Fempe.
Union Station has added staff to help with the collaboration of the two new programs and some collaborating agencies have added representatives from the L.A. County Department of Social Services working out of their offices.
Von Fempe said they plan to do more outreach and more assessments with this collaboration.
“We have to assess them with a uniform instrument that enables us to understand the medical frailties and the psychological needs as well as any other human need that this person may have,” he said. “From that we assist any way we can. Because in the past, the single largest barrier to subsidize housing according to some was the application process itself, so if we have people that can do that in a streamlined and uniform way, it creates a more unified access to housing.”
“When people reclaim their role in the community, they develop what all of us agree is a meaningful role in the community,” said Von Fempe. “Rather than a homeless person, they have a role as a neighbor, as a friend, as someone who contributes to the neighborhood. With our partner agencies, we’re able to adequately reach people and provide them resources.”
Pasadena has seen a drop in homeless numbers recently. In the annual count of the city’s homeless population in January, led by local volunteers and Fuller Theological Seminary’s Institute for Urban Initiatives, the number dropped by 45 percent since 2011, according to officials. The count yielded 666 homeless individuals living in Pasadena, down from 772 the previous year.
“That was the lowest in memory,” said Gross. “We attribute it to our effort. We feel this is making an impact.”
This collaboration includes agencies such as Housing Works, New Directions for Veterans, Volunteers of America, the San Gabriel Valley Consortium on Homelessness, as well as LAHSA and United Way of Greater Los Angeles. For the children and families program, the California Hispanic Commission on Alcohol and Drug Abuse is helping in the east San Gabriel Valley.
“We can’t take all the credit, even on the funding side,” said Chris Ko, program officer with United Way. “It comes through the funders collaborative, of which United Way is a major part; that includes the Hilton Foundation, the Weingart Foundation… I can tell you from our own experience, (collaboration) has allowed us to do bigger things together, like this. With our funding alone we wouldn’t be able to support a program like this, and our hope is that you would find the same result — that coming together and doing things together you can achieve bigger things that you might not have before.”
Ko, a San Gabriel Valley resident, said his hope for the near future would be to be able to assess and help homeless individuals he sees near his city.
“I would be able to administer an assessment and I would be able to put it in somewhere and know that person is seen in the same way that someone would be seen as if they walked through the door in Pasadena,” he said.
Reach the author at Claudia.Palma@sgvn.com .