Pasadena Star News
By Cortney Fielding
PASADENA – Since taking the job of case manager at Union Station three years ago, Harvey Callier has been meeting daily with his homeless clients inside of a closet-size space fondly known as “the holding pen.”
And he’s had to share the square-footage challenged office with two other case managers. It made for sometimes difficult interactions when the room was full.
“I’d have a woman who would be crying, but she wouldn’t open up because she didn’t want anyone else to hear,” said Callier, 66, who was once a Union Station client after a prison stint in 1994.
Settling into his brand new office Thursday, complete with windows and doors he won’t have to share, Callier predicted his clients will soon feel much more comfortable reaching out for help.
“The clients will really open up,” he said, ”because in the other back room, there wasn’t the same confidentiality, it was inhibiting people.”
After seven years of fundraising and planning, construction on the second and final phase of an $8 million expansion at Union Station Adult Center on South Raymond Avenue is now nearly completed.
The center now has a new 20-bed women’s dormitory, a library, an exercise room, an 80-seat dining area, private case manager offices, as well as community bathrooms and shower facilities.
An existing men’s dormitory with 36 beds also has been refurbished.
“It’s taken a lot of time and energy over the last seven years, but with the help of the community, with the help of very generous people, churches, synagogues and public sources, we’ve been able to do this,” said the Rabbi Marvin Gross, executive director of Union Station Foundation, which operates the center. ‘We’re very grateful.”
Officials with the San Gabriel Valley’s largest private homeless services provider will hold a public grand opening celebration from 4 to 6 p.m. today. State Sen. Jack Scott, Los Angeles County Supervisor Mike Antonovich and Pasadena Mayor Bill Bogaard are scheduled to attend.
The first phase of Union Station’s expansion was completed in 2003 with the opening of a family center with 50 beds for parents and their children.
While a few beds at the family center have since been set aside for single women, many of whom have lost their children to foster care, the arrangement has been less than ideal, Gross said. “It could be a volatile situation,” he said.
The new women’s shelter will not officially open to residents for another month. And although it will feel like a victory when the women enter the new dormitory for the fist time, Gross said it’s important to keep the accomplishment in perspective.
“Despite the excitement and how proud we are, we still don’t have that many beds, given the need here,” he said. ‘We have 150 beds for about- 1,000 homeless people.”
According to the 2006 Census, 1,165 people are homeless in Pasadena on any given night, 48 percent of them women and children.
Faced with these figures, it’s unrealistic for Union Station to continue to concentrate its efforts on shelter expansions, Gross said.
He said the nonprofit’s focus is shifting toward preserving the scant affordable housing still available in Pasadena and the San Gabriel Valley, as well as working to create new housing.
Clients leaving Union Station “rarely” find housing in Pasadena, Gross said. Most have to leave for cities like Palmdale, Santa Clarita, and even Las Vegas.
“It takes longer and longer to find housing that’s affordable, that’s decent, that’s clean,” said Gross.