By BRANDON VILLALOVOS
Published: Thursday, July 13, 2017 | 5:23 AM
Union Station Homeless Services CEO John Brauer said at a Rotary Club luncheon Wednesday that Pasadena is on track to eliminate homelessness in the city within the next ten years, despite an uptick in the 2017 homeless count which saw a slight increase this year following five years of steep decline.
Brauer was appointed to his position at the nonprofit earlier this year and is optimistic about the organization’s role in being at the forefront of providing a full spectrum of services to individuals and families experiencing homelessness in Pasadena and throughout the San Gabriel Valley.
“People are tired of homelessness,” said Union Station Homeless Services CEO John Brauer. “Our goal is within the next ten years to end homelessness itself in Pasadena and throughout the San Gabriel Valley. It’s not that many people. Even though the challenges are large, this is our time, this is our place and we’re going to do that.”
Union Station Homeless Services operates nine major programs throughout the San Gabriel Valley and provides a full continuum of care to help the homeless community members become stable and self-sufficient.
There are approximately 4,000 homeless individuals living in the San Gabriel Valley.
According to the 2017 Pasadena Homeless Count conducted last January, the City experienced a slight increase in the number of homeless as the count rose over last year’s from 530 to 575, but still significantly fewer than the peak of 1,216 recorded homeless in 2011.
While this increase might seem alarming to some, Brauer says there is a reasonable explanation.
“This year was an unusual year for Pasadena in that a lot of the shelters in our surrounding cities were closed [at the time the count was conducted] and we saw for the first time that all of our homeless shelters were full,” explained Brauer.
Chronic homelessness in Pasadena was reduced by 15 percent last year, Brauer said.
Pasadena also achieved functional zero count for veterans as well as for unsheltered homeless families.
“For the first time we have no homeless families right now living on the street and the goal is to keep it that way,” said Brauer.
Union Station’s broader mission to help individuals beyond Pasadena and throughout the entire County may be more accessible than ever before due to Measure M, which could raise an estimated $355 million annually for 10 years to help pay for the supportive services needed by the chronically homeless people.
“It’s such an exciting time because I think we are going to be able to make a significant difference in terms of the folks that we’re able to serve,” said Brauer.
County officials estimate that the expanded services could lift 45,000 families and individuals out of homelessness in five years and prevent an additional 30,000 people from becoming homeless in the first place, according to the L.A. Times.
“It’s really designed around supportive services and, frankly, if we are going to get people off the street, part of that is to give them the supportive services,” said Brauer.
Union Station recently began implementing a new outreach model to engage homeless individuals rather than waiting for them to seek out services.
“What we do now is a really different system for how we outreach. We go where you are,” explained Brauer about the organization’s new initiative to connect with the homeless population more efficiently.
People who are homeless are able to access a cell phone within the first 24 hours of being identified as homeless and can call 211 to contact Union Station Homeless Services directly, according to Brauer.
“We will come to you and figure out what you need. The idea is that we don’t want you live on the streets where it’s not safe. We really want to help you get off the street and get going,” said Brauer. “We can’t wait for them to come to us — we’ve got to go out to them and we’ve got to solve that problem sooner or later,” explained Brauer.
The homeless count in Pasadena has dropped by 54 percent since 2009 and, according to Brauer, will only continue to drop each year.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that we’re going to make that a functional zero number,” said Brauer. “Any homelessness in Pasadena is within grasp. This is going to happen in the next ten years.”
For more information about Union Station Homeless Services, visit https://unionstationhs.org/.