Taking a Head Count of the Homeless

Pasadena Star-News

Taking a Head Count of the Homeless

By Marshall Allen

Volunteers and social service providers canvassed the city’s streets and shelters Thursday conducting the 2005 count of Pasadena’s homeless population.

The 2003 count showed 853 homeless people in Pasadena on any given night. But this year, local experts on homelessness expect the number to be higher for two reasons:

  • The population of homeless families has burgeoned in recent years. A 2004 survey in Pasadena showed nearly 30 percent of homeless people had children in tow. The Bad Weather Shelters at Pasadena Covenant Church and Lake Avenue Church have had unusually high numbers of children the past two years, organizers said.
  • The economy, which is always a factor, according to Joe Colletti, executive director of the Institute of Urban Research and Development, the organization hired to conduct the count.

“The economy has not been as good the past couple years and as a result we may see an increase,” Colletti said.

The homeless count is mandated every two years so local homeless service providers are eligible for federal funding. Those in Pasadena will receive $2.5 million in 2005 from the federal government.

The homeless count also will be used in the ongoing strategy sessions where service providers will create a plan to end chronic homelessness in the next ten years, city officials said.

About 100 people, most of them volunteers, conducted the count. Central locations included the Bad Weather Shelter and Union Station Foundation on Raymond Avenue, where about 225 homeless people are fed free meals every day.

Marshall Dalton, 37, and Steve Hill, 38, held clipboards and took information from the homeless men and women at Union Station. Dalton and Hill are homeless men who said they have benefited from services provided in Pasadena.

Dalton said most people willingly provided personal information for the count, but a few declined to participate. The information—identifiers such as initials, race, state and year of birth, and marital status—was used to create a code that ensures no one is counted twice.

David Kotce, director of intake and adult shelter services at Union Station, said there are at least four populations of homeless people in Pasadena: near Union Station, on San Gabriel Boulevard, and on North Lake and South Lake avenues.

It’s a challenge to get an accurate count of the homeless because not everyone goes to homeless facilities, he said.

“Many homeless don’t come to Union Station or get services,” Kotce said. “There’s always people who we don’t know where they go at night.”

Colletti said the final numbers will be fairly accurate, but will almost certainly be too low.

It will be two to three weeks before the numbers are tallied for the count, he said.

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