Union Station Foundation’s “Family Center” Celebrates Grand Opening In Pasadena

After more than three years of hard work, extensive fund raising, construction, great anticipation and continuing severe need, Union Station’s “Family Center” celebrated its grand opening today (Thurs., Oct. 16) in Pasadena.

The opening of the Family Center celebrates the achievement of the first of three goals set forth in Union Station’s Rebuilding Lives Campaign, which has raised more than $7.6 million in gifts and pledges since its kickoff in September, 2000.

IndyMac Bank was the sponsor for the grand opening event. The Family Center’s programs and a portion of this event are funded in part by First 5 LA.

The Union Station Foundation Family Center opened to clients on June, 24, 2003, and its dormitory of 25 beds for parents and children quickly filled to capacity. A second dorm on-site, offering an additional 25 beds, is scheduled to open early in 2004. The Family Center is located at 825 E. Orange Grove Blvd. in Pasadena.

“The Family Center offers families a safe and secure place to live while they are working to rebuild their lives,” explained Marvin Gross, Executive Director of Union Station. “The need among homeless families is huge. The number of homeless families is significantly up over recent years throughout Los Angeles County,” he emphasized. “The Family Center allows us to greatly expand our ability to serve families with a four-fold increase in beds and comprehensive social services on a single site.”

Services at the Family Center are designed to assist each family to find and maintain permanent housing, provide a supportive and nurturing environment for children, and help parents develop the resources they need to meet their family’s medical, economic, education and social needs.

The newly opened facility includes a dining room, a restaurant-style kitchen, living room, library, indoor and outdoor play areas, courtyard, computer-equipped learning lab and kitchen garden.

“It’s a myth that the homeless can’t change or become self-sufficient. Hundreds of our alumni are now productive members of the community,” Gross said. To help Union Station’s clients attain successful independence, case management offices are located at the Family Center, van transportation is available for services offered at other agencies, and a regular liaison from the Pasadena Unified School District works with families to ensure that children can take advantage of the district’s educational opportunities.

When fully operational in early 2004, the Family Center will house an average of 60 families per year – 180 parents and children. Family stays at the center may extend up to six months, a time frame that should allow them to become stabilized, achieve a source of income and obtain affordable housing, Gross explained.

The second phase of the Rebuilding Lives Campaign focuses on expansion of Union Station’s existing facility at 412 S. Raymond Ave. The Raymond Ave. facility currently houses the organization’s meals program – which annually serves 135,000 meals and provides overnight shelter for 36 adults. A major expansion of this facility will begin in early 2004. That expansion will provide 20 new shelter beds for women along with restrooms and showers, office space for Union Station’s programs for single adults, as well as an enlarged kitchen storage area. The final construction plans are in preparation, and construction is scheduled to begin in May, 2004, with completion seen in early 2005.

Upon completion of the 412 S. Raymond Ave. expansion, Union Station will offer shelter and support services to more than 100 men, women and children every night of the year.

The third phase of the Rebuilding Lives Campaign focuses on building the organization’s endowment, to help secure future stability of Union Station’s programs and facilities. Gross expressed gratitude that “the campaign has increased the endowment fund by $500,000.”

“This endowment will continue to grow with gifts and bequests in future years,” he said, smiling. “However, almost undoubtedly the need for our services,” he added more somberly, “also will continue to grow.”

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