By Marshall Allen
A $1 million state grant to Union Station Foundation is the largest in the charity’s history and considered an endorsement of its programs serving the homeless, according to Union Station officials.
The grant, awarded about two weeks ago, will go entirely toward a $2 million project that will add 20 beds for single women to the organization’s 412 S. Raymond Ave. location, officials said. Women make up 40 percent of the almost 1,000 homeless people in Pasadena.
Rabbi Marvin Gross, executive director of Union Station, said he was “thrilled and honored” that the state would show confidence in Union Station by approving the grant. The amount was what Union Station requested and the maximum allowable, he said.
About a year ago, the expansion of the shelter was a controversial proposal among Union Station’s neighbors, many of whom said the charity was not abiding by its permit by looking after its clients. Homeless people were sleeping and urinating on the property of nearby businesses and leaving trash on the street, critics said.
The controversy resulted in the formation of a neighborhood committee that includes representatives from Union Station and local businesses. Vivian Leis, program director at Kids Klub Pasadena, a day-care center next door to Union Station, said the situation has “improved tremendously.”
The expansion will cause a lot more foot traffic, “but if they continue to stay on top of it, it should be OK,” Leis said.
Union Station now has 50 beds for families at its 825 E. Orange Grove Blvd. location. There are 30 beds for single men and six for single women at its Raymond Avenue location.
Over the course of a year, the additional beds will enable Union Station to serve 75 to 80 single women, Gross said.
Sarah Schaffer, 57, of Pasadena was homeless for about five months before she came to Union Station as a resident in 1998. The organization’s programs proved essential to her current success, she said.
“Union Station is a life-saving situation if you really want what they’ll give you,” she said. The women’s housing is so important because “not a day goes by where I don’t see a woman who needs housing,” Schaffer said.