Union Station Homeless Services celebrates 40 years in Pasadena (Pasadena Star News)

Lunch at Union Station Friday, August 2, 2013. Union Station Homeless Services will celebrate its 40th anniversary Sunday with a block party in the parking lot behind its family center. (SGVN/Photo by Walt Mancini)

PASADENA – It’s been four decades since a group of seven volunteers and a priest from All Saints Church opened a small storefront on Union Street to help the poor and homeless men living in downtown.

Now, Union Station Homeless Services celebrates its 40th anniversary able to tout itself as the largest homeless services provider in the San GabrielValley. And the nonprofit will continue its year of commemorative activities this weekend with a celebratory block party Sunday behind its family center at 825 E. Orange Grove Blvd.

Union Station CEO Marvin Gross said there is a special significance to 40 years.

“In the Bible the number 40 symbolizes a long time; 40 years in the desert, 40 days and nights of rain in the story of Noah,” Gross said. “Four decades here in Pasadena we’ve been at it with fantastic support from the community. What we want to celebrate is that over this 40-year period we have helped thousands of people to better their lives.”

Gross added that the face of homelessness has changed significantly since Union Station first opened. When it first opened its doors, the nonprofit only served homeless men, but now, he said, there has

been a rise in the number of women and families that seek help.

Since 1973, Gross said, Union Station has served almost 4 million meals to hungry and homeless people, provided more than 860,000 nights at its shelter and secured 2,200 jobs in its career development program.

Mayor Bill Bogaard, a longtime supporter of Union Station, said the nonprofit has become a staple in the Pasadena community, especially since poverty and homelessness are prominent issues in the city.

“Certainly homelessness is a significant issue for Pasadena because those who are homeless need support to reactivate their lives but the community needs to be assured that the presence of homeless persons and their activities won’t detract from all that we’re trying to accomplish in terms of vital and active community where it’s enjoyable and safe at all times.”

Though the homeless are still very visible on the streets of Pasadena, Bogaard said the numbers show that the city has actually reduced its homeless population by about 20 percent over the last two years. Gross said the annual homeless count in January showed this year there are 774 homeless people living in Pasadena, which is the lowest reported in the city since the first count was done in the early 1990s.

Gross said that success, in part, is due to the expanding offerings from Union Station, as well as other nonprofits in the community and work from the city’s Department of Housing.

“We now have six major programs in Pasadena and five facilities and working with our nonprofit partners and the city we feel many, many people have been able to escape homelessness on a permanent basis,” Gross said. “At the same time, there is still much to be done and we have to keep at it, and we will.”

That task, Gross said, is not without complication, as the city’s ability to fund important projects like affordable housing continues to be hindered by cuts to state and federal human services funding. But, with the continuing support of community volunteers, who have given “well over 1 million hours” to the nonprofit, Union Station will be able to continue its mission for another 40 years.

Jerome Mims, 56, of Pasadena, said for the sake of people like him, he hopes the organization succeeds. Mims came to Union Station in 1991 after years of drug abuse and alcoholism destroyed his life. Now, he is a law school graduate with 22 years of sobriety under his belt.

“I suffered from the three H’s: homelessness, hopelessness and helplessness,” Mims said. “Union Station gave me not only a way out, but also a way up. I’m amazed (they’re celebrating 40 years), plus I’m also overwhelmed with gratitude.”

Link to Original Article By Pasadena Star-News

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