By Teresa Baxter
The Pasadena chapter of Zonta International recently held their monthly meeting featuring a guest speaker from the Union Station Foundation. Sandra Peterson, Director of Program Standards and Evaluation, gave an informative lecture and presentation in which she described the programs available for homeless women in the area. Union Station Foundation is the San Gabriel Valley’s largest private agency serving the poor and homeless. Through fundraising efforts of the last seven years the expansion of the center, with the inclusion of a 20-bed women’s dormitory, is nearing completion.
“Last Friday we had our open house for our new 20-bed women’s dorm,” she said. “Up until now we had been housing women and men in the same dorm and were only able to serve about nine women at a time.”
Peterson reinforced the urgency for the need of a women’s dormitory on the premises, sharing that one of the reasons women choose to remain on the streets, rather than in the shelter, could be due to the fact that they are trying to avoid an environment where they are being “shoved in with the men.”
“That was one of our main goals for getting a totally separate shelter,” said Peterson. “So that women could really feel safe and they could have a special place that was their own.”
The most recent Pasadena Homeless Count, completed in 2007, documents that there has been a slight decrease in the destitute population from 1,165 in 2005, to the current number of 969. But, the fact remains that 465 of this total are women and children.
According to Peterson, some homeless women in Pasadena have been living on the streets for over 15 years. The new shelter, which should be operational in the next few weeks, is meant to offer a comfortable environment where they can have a meal, and hopefully open up to case worker in the first steps to socialization. “It has happened in the past, and I guarantee you with this new women’s program, it will happen more often,” she said.
Aside from the expansion of a women’s dormitory the renovation also includes offices for clients to meet privately with case managers, a multipurpose room for ,classes, support groups and meetings; and expanded food storage and freezer capacity to allow the acceptance of larger donations to the facility.
Zonta International is a worldwide service organization of executives working together to advance the status of women. Since its founding in 1919 in Buffalo, New York, Zonta International has been dedicated to improving the legal, political, economic, professional, health, and educational status of women. For more information about upcoming events or membership requirements, please visit www. zontapasadena.org