Why Pasadena outranked 32 major U.S. cities in reducing homelessness

A great read on homelessness in the Pasadena Star:

Pasadena reduced its homeless population by nearly 54 percent between 2009 and 2016, the highest percentage among 32 large cities studied by the U.S. Conference of Mayors, according to a report from the organization.

Pasadena had the largest percent decreases in total homelessness and in the amount of homeless families, the study reported. The city counted 1,216 as homeless in 2011, but only 530 in 2016. Officials in the Housing and Career Services Department say three times as many people would be homeless today if the city had ignored the problem.

“We’ve been focusing on expanding our efforts for homeless prevention and permanent supportive housing, and that has been bearing good results,” said William Huang, Pasadena’s director of housing. “But there is still a lot more work to do.”

The city has helped house hundreds of people in the past few years, through rental subsidy vouchers and building permanent supportive housing.

Marv’s Place, a 20-unit apartment complex built in partnership with Union Station Homeless Services, opened earlier this year after years of fighting for funding.

“That project has 62 people living in it — 62 people who are no longer homeless, including 36 children,” Huang said. “This is what ends homelessness.”

A change in policy in 2011 has helped reduce homelessness by shifting the city into a more proactive role, Huang said. The city previously operated an intake center where the homeless could come to get help but that method hinged on someone seeking assistance. Now, outreach teams make contact with homeless individuals daily in an attempt to build trust so they are more likely to use the city’s resources. It can take months of contacts before someone comes around to accepting help, Huang said.

The city is closely watching ballot measures to increase funding for homelessness in Los Angeles and L.A. County because the fight is a regional one, not something Pasadena can solve alone, Huang said.

“The better L.A. does and the better L.A. County does, the better Pasadena will do,” Huang said.

Despite the decline, Pasadena has a homeless rate of 37.3 per 10,000 people, nearly double the national rate of 16.9 per 10,000. Many of those who remain are chronically homeless — a category Pasadena saw an increase in last year — and are resistant to services.

Pasadena enacted more aggressive panhandling ordinances this year, including a law that makes it easier for the city to confiscate belongings left in public spaces. Advocates say these new laws criminalize the homeless, but city officials argue they are trying to prevent intimidation and blocked right-of-ways.

The report from the U.S. Conference of Mayors and National Alliance to End Homelessness analyzed data from 32 cities across 24 states. Cities included New York, Washington, D.C., Long Beach, Lincoln, Wichita, Austin, Atlanta, Chicago and others. The selected cities represent 32 percent of the more than 544,000 people experiencing homelessness in the nation.

Two-thirds of the cities saw decreases between 2009 and 2016. Long Beach, for example, saw a reduction of 1,659 people or 43 percent, while other cities like Los Angeles, Wichita, Honolulu and Washington D.C. experienced double digit increases in the same time frame.

Though Los Angeles had an overall increase, it was less than 15 percent and in some subcategories, homelessness was on the decline, according to Chris Ko, director of systems and innovation for the United Way of Greater Los Angeles.

The cities are interconnected with the light rail, but Pasadena’s reduction isn’t directly related to Los Angeles’ increase, Ko said. New counting methods, rather than people migrating from Pasadena or Long Beach, are more likely to blame for the uptick.

“This is not an accident, this is the result of intentional choices that Pasadena has made,” Ko said. “You’re starting to see some of the things that Pasadena did five years ago finally come to fruition,”

United Way partners with Pasadena and other cities on programs for the homeless. Ko said the success seen in Pasadena is in part because the city is aggressive in pursuing funding and innovation with the proceeds. An abundance of private organizations, like Union Station Homeless Services, help further the city’s goals.

Still, Pasadena must stay vigilant if it wants the progress to continue, Ko warned. Other cities, such as Denver, have seen reductions only to backslide in later years because of changes in politics that favored enforcement over assistance.

“We’ve seen this go backwards,” Ko said. “We’re all hoping for Pasadena to continue showing leadership.”

Success Story: CASA of San Luis Obispo County

Photo Credit by Philippe Put is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Logan* was just 3 years old when his life was turned upside down. Police responded to a report of domestic violence and found Logan’s parents had physically assaulted each other in front of their child. Investigation revealed a pattern of violence that also included Logan as a victim of both physical and emotional abuse. Logan was removed and placed in foster care.

This sweet little boy was diagnosed as autistic, non-verbal, and with signs of fetal alcohol syndrome. He had not received any medical or psychological help while in the care of his parents. Logan was placed in a special preschool with hopes that some of his delays and behaviors could be remedied.

When CASA volunteer Virginia* was appointed, she quickly discovered a highly traumatized child who would not verbally communicate with anyone. After many visits to assess the child’s progress in the foster home and preschool, Virginia was concerned this child might never speak. Precious time had been lost as services should have started long before the age of three. Because of his difficult behaviors which included hours of inconsolable screaming, Logan’s foster parents decided they could no longer care for him. He was placed in another foster home before reuniting with his biological mother who had separated from his father.

During this time, it was discovered that Logan’s mother believed his autism was due to evil spirits. His mother denied him access to potentially helpful therapy appointments. Logan was removed again from his mother and placed into foster care.

Virginia continued to monitor Logan’s progress in foster care and preschool and visited him regularly. Each time the school held Logan’s annual Individual Education Plan review, all of the services and supports Virginia requested were incorporated. Gradually, Logan began to communicate at school and with his foster parents. In time, these foster parents adopted Logan, giving him a permanent, loving home. Logan is now six years old and happily introduces his new family to others. Virginia continues to be a part of Logan’s life, visiting often and being a trusted family friend. Virginia is one of many everyday heroes and we need more.

Thank YOU to CASA of San Luis Obispo County.

Support Salon Roux – Support must! charities

THIRD THURSDAY in December means it is time to finish up that shopping! Head down to Salon Roux today and know a portion of your purchase goes to must! charities!

821 Pine Street in Paso Robles


100% Toward Project Collaborations

Did you know? 100% of your donation to must! charities goes toward project collaborations – yes, 100%! The Board of Directors covers all of the organization’s overhead so you can feel confident that when you give, 100% makes it back into the community!


A Buck a Bottle at Tablas Creek Vineyard

One buck. One bottle. So incredibly simple. During the month of December, Tablas Creek Vineyard donates $1 to must! charities for every bottle purchased at the Tasting Room.

Plan a visit this month: