After Years of Decline, Pasadena's Homeless Count Climbs 28% in Past Two Years

Still much lower than 2012’s peak population, more of today’s homeless are living unsheltered than before

Published : Monday, April 30, 2018 | 5:28 AM

This chart and all graphics accompanying this article are from Pasadena Partnership to End Homelessness's 2018 Pasadena Homeless Count report

A City department will release the results of its annual homeless count at City Council tonight in a report which will show that, despite a broad range of mitigation efforts, the number of homeless counted in Pasadena grew from the previous year’s 503 to 677 in 2017.

Worse, a much larger number of them — 462 — were living on the streets, in parks, encampments, vehicles, or other places not meant for human habitation, a jump of 33% over the previous year’s count of unsheltered homeless.

This is the second year of rising homelessness in Pasadena after years of declines. Between 2012, with its peak of 1,216, and 2016, the city saw a 53% drop in homelessness.

The U-turn may be caused in part by increased housing costs.

“There’s more people falling into homelessness than before, so as much as we’re assisting people to getting off the streets, more people are falling in,” said Ryan Izell, Chief Program Officer of Union Station Homeless Services.

“We’re seeing increasing concerns [in the] market, and rents are going up and people’s incomes are flat, and so what we’re seeing is actually more people who are entering homelessness for the first time,” Izell said.

The City of Pasadena, in coordination with Urban Initiatives, conducted the 2018 Pasadena Homeless Count, on the evening/morning of January 23rd and January 24th, according to a department staff report.

See the full report by clicking here

“While this one-night count offers a snapshot of homelessness, the number of people who are homeless on any given night fluctuates throughout the year,” the report said.

Included in the “unsheltered” count are homeless individuals and families sleeping outdoors, on the street, or in parks or vehicles, etc. The “sheltered” count includes homeless individuals and families in temporary shelter, such as those residing in emergency shelters, transitional housing, or those using hotel/motel vouchers.

The count does not include persons who are living in overcrowded housing or who are considered “at-risk of homelessness” since the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)does not include these persons among their definition of homelessness, according to the staff report

The City of Pasadena is the lead agency for the Pasadena Continuum of Care (CoC), and is responsible for reporting the findings of the Homeless Count to HUD. Data from the Homeless Count is also included in the CoC’s annual funding application, responsible for over $3.2 million in federal funding for homeless services in the City.

According to the report, half (50%) of respondents living on the street are local, and were living in Pasadena when·they most recently lost their housing, up slightly from 2016, for which the number was 48%.

The homeless population in Pasadena is also getting older, the report noted. Between 2016 and 2018, there was a 65% increase in the number of persons over age 50 who were homeless; from 153 in 2016 to 253 in 2018.

There was also 36% increase in the number of persons who did not meet HUD’s definition of chronic homelessness,. meaning they were not homeless for more than 12 months, or did not have a qualifying disability, including substance use or mental illness.

For this population, it was high rents and a shortage of housing caused them to fall ·into homelessness. In 2016, according to the report, the housing cost burden for the lowest-income renter households in Pasadena exceeded 100%, meaning their income was not enough to cover rent. .

There are also a number of significant decreases in various segments of the homeless population, the report noted. Veterans, for example, now represent less than five percent of the homeless population, and their number has decreased in number by 49% since 2013. Much of this decrease came from the opening of several nearby supportive housing projects for veterans in 2016, according to the staff report.

“Future reductions depend on strengthening landlord partnerships as well as developing new supportive housing,” the report added.

The report said the number of chronically homeless persons, at 164, has decreased by 27% since 2016, when it was at 224, and now accounts for just under a quarter of the total homeless population. This indicates that Pasadena’s focus on Supportive Housing for those·exhibiting the highest level of need is working, said the report.

The number of homeless families remained unchanged at 37. The number includes 104 individuals, representing 15% of the 2018 homeless population. But the number is expected to remain relatively flat, said the report, as Pasadena’s emergency shelter and transitional housing programs for families provide beds for those who are homeless regionally, not just in Pasadena.

There was also an increased in the number of homeless youth, the report noted. While homeless youth represent just over 6% of the total homeless population, there was a 23% increase in the number of unaccompanied and parenting youth in Pasadena, at 43.

In response, the report said that rapid re-housing with broader educational and employment support services targeted specifically towards this population is needed.

But, said Izell, “What the results of the homeless count demonstrate, is that where we target resources and services, we’re able to have significant impact. This is represented in the declining number of veterans experiencing homelessness, as well as the declining number of persons categorized as ‘chronically homeless.’”

Continued Izell, “The City of Pasadena and local providers have committed to prioritizing individuals and families who are ‘chronically homeless’ and have the highest needs. This intentional focus has resulted in a 27% decrease over the past two years and meant that some of the people with the greatest needs and who have been outside the longest now have a place to call home.”

On a much happier note, the Department was also able to report that “Ms. J.,” a familiar site to Pasadena residents and visitors to the South Lake District, is no longer homeless.

Ms. J. had been living on the street, and had been for more than 5 years. Locals knew her as “The Smiles Lady,’ because of the cardboard sign she held up, which read, “Even a smile helps.”

As a result of outreach by the Pasadena Police HOPE team and Union Station’s street outreach workers, Ms. J. was connected with Union Station’s Housing Navigation. With support from Union Station and Chapcare Clinic, Ms. J. was first placed in temporary housing, and ultimately, permanent housing on December 28, 2017.

Ms. J. hopes to continue to spread positivity in her community, particularly by seeking new volunteer opportunities. She also hopes to enroll in some vocational training, and eventually re-enter the workforce.

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