Union Station Foundation’s Local Volunteers Making an Impact To Help Homeless

La Canada Flintridge Outlook

By Domenica Megerdechian

Established in 1973 on Union Street in Downtown Pasadena, the mission of Union Station is to provide for homeless men, women and children in Pasadena and the West San Gabriel Valley.

Serving as the largest and most comprehensive social services agency in San Gabriel Valley, Union Station provides services to those individuals and families who have become homeless due to poverty, unemployment, mental illness, substance abuse, lack of affordable housing, and a shortage of government and private support programs.

Assistant Director of Development Kandy Nunn has been with the organization for just under a year and a half.

“The organization does fine work, and really makes a difference in a lot of people’s lives,” Nunn said. “I go home feeling good. Without the hours that the volunteers put in, the work they do, and the support of our generous donors, we wouldn’t be able to do our work. We’re very thankful for all the people affiliated with our organization.”

The Foundation started as a church soup kitchen in a storefront on Union Street in 1937, and since then has become the San Gabriel Valley’s largest homeless agency providing for all homeless people in search of a helping hand.

Executive Director Rabbi Marvin Gross has been overseeing the organization since 1995 and has been residing in La Canada Flintridge since 1979, when he became rabbi of a synagogue in Glendale.

“Union Station Foundation is a strong organization founded with the mission of helping find permanent solutions to homelessness, and to help people become motivated with personal goals,” Gross said.

The foundation is a community-based, non-denominational, non-profit social service agency. Its professional staff along with volunteers provide a wide array of supportive services to residents and clients.

Union Station’s services include emergency shelter available to all, transitional housing, comprehensive case management services, community meal programs, community shower programs, substance abuse recovery, career development and job placement, educational and recreational activities for children, specialized services for clients with mental illnesses, and many more services available to help those less fortunate people transform their lives to become independent, self-supporting and stable.

Current Board Member and past donor Mindy Stein has been on and off the board at Union Station since 1996.

“The organization’s goals are rebuilding lives and promoting the well-being of their clients.” said Stein. “I’ve seen it grow continuously throughout the past 11 years to become a more full-service organization. As time passed, people’s needs grew, so Union Station began to address the needs of families and women. The people in the organization have a passion to find and address the needs of the people and give hope to those who need it the most.”

On any given night, 1,165 people are homeless in Pasadena, with 37% being children, 40% of them men and 23% women. Union Station Foundation provides more than 155,000 meals annually, not including the 5,000 prepared for Thanksgiving and 2,500 Christmas Dinners-in-the-Park.

Board Member and Special Events Chair Margo Kidushim has been with the organization for six years and is currently serving her second term.

“I heard about the organization through friends and neighbors who were involved, and began volunteering myself, and have since then joined the program committee, the board, and special events,” said Kidushim. “The organization is incredible. They do exactly what is needed to be done in society, by helping people. We give homes and are responsible for those who cannot be for themselves. I believe in the organization, am fully committed to it, and plan to stay with the organization for years to come.”

Union Station had a budget of $3.7 million annually, 75% of this budget coming from private donations and the other 25% from public and government organizations. More than 1,000 volunteers donate 35,000 hours of service to the foundation annually and help out the 55 full-time employed staff members with the programs and events.

Heather and Paul Haaga of LCF have been donating to the organization for years. “We were introduced to Rabbi Marvin Gross, the executive director of the organization, and he was so engaging and committed to the idea of helping the homeless people in Pasadena. He was so enthusiastic of making his dream a reality, and so we began to donate and give clothes to the Sources program, where individuals prepare to go out and interview for jobs in the community,” said Heather Haaga.

Participation in the organization from LCF includes two foundations, three government agencies, eight churches, 11 companies, 29 organizations and 1,128 individuals.

Union Station Foundation has five programs available to their clients. The adult center, a 36-bed shelter for adults, serves about 180 individuals annually. Recently, an addition to the women’s dorm was made, and now it serves an additional 20 individuals. The adults who stay in this facility usually stay for a period of three to six months.

The family Center is a safe haven for up to 50 parents and children per night, and up to 200 individuals annually. The average stay for these families ranges from three to six months.

Euclid Villa acts as a transitional housing development for up to 14 homeless and low-income families. Residents are welcome to stay for up to two years, and case management is provided to clients on-site. The development is owned and operated by Union Station Foundation and Pacific Alliance Housing.

Passageways is a multi-agency program that works in partnership with Pacific Clinics, working to provide intake, assessment, medical and mental health services, and referrals for 1,600 people annually.

The fifth and final program available to interested clients is Sources, a career development and job placement program designed to meet the needs of homeless and low-income individuals. This program offers workshops and individualized job search and career planning support held for approximately 120 adults every year.

The Valley has 9,254 homeless people, according to the “2005 Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count.” Countywide, the study estimates about 91,000 people are homeless on any given night, and that 221,363 are homeless at some point during the year.

Even though the country Board of Supervisors approved $24 million for homeless programs last year, and Mayor Villaraigosa said that Los Angeles is prepared to spend $50 million to help the homeless, and in 2004, President Bush mandated that major American cities end homelessness in 10 years, the numbers of low-income and homeless individuals are sky rocketing.

This organization helps these individuals find their way back on the right path in life, and helps them become stable and independent.

“We only hope to work to expand our group of supporters to help us reach our goals in bettering the quality of life for everyone,” said Gross. “We will work to strengthen our resources to fulfill our mission, and open our services to those who can utilize and benefit from them the most.”

For more information on Union Station Foundation or to find out how to become involved with the organization, call (626) 240-4557 or visit ww.unionstationhs.org.

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