City Homeless Numbers Rise, But Count May Be Deceiving

Published : Tuesday, April 25, 2017 | 4:21 AM

On the evening and morning of January 24th and 25th, 2017, 575 people were homeless in Pasadena, representing an 8 percent increase over 2016, according to a City Council report prepared by Housing Department Director William Huang.

Those numbers may be deceiving, however, Huang noted. The number of sheltered homeless rose by 28 percent over 2016 in the count, and those persons were most likely impacted by the particularly rainy and cold winter in Pasadena.

As Huang explained, the count was a one-night count and survey of Pasadena’s homeless population and consisted of two primary components—the unsheltered count and the sheltered count. The report noted that while this one-night count offers a snapshot of homelessness on one single night, the number of homeless fluctuates during the year.

The unsheltered count is a targeted survey of homeless individuals and families most commonly considered homeless, such as those sleeping outdoors, on the street, in parks or vehicles, etc.). The sheltered count included homeless individuals and families who have temporary shelter, according to the report, including those staying in emergency shelters, transitional housing, or those using hotel or motel vouchers.

The report noted that while homelessness in Pasadena has seen a long-term downward trend, there was a slight uptick in 2017. As an example, within the homeless population, the number of veterans went down by 32% and the number of chronically homeless went down by 14%, the health needs of those populations became more significant.

Compared to 2016, there was an overall increase of 73% in those staying in
emergency shelters. This increase is likely the result of the particularly rainy and
cold winter in Pasadena as well as the lack of alternative regional shelters that were available in 2016

The report also noted that he number of unsheltered homeless remained relatively flat, with 347 people identified as unsheltered in 2017, a 1% decrease over 2016.

The decrease in number of homeless veterans who are homeless was largely attributed to the opening of several bricks-and-mortar permanent supportive housing projects in 2016, said Huang. With no new PSH projects for veterans on the horizon, however, these decreases are not expected to continue into 2018, he said.

While here was a 42% increase in the number of families who were homeless on the night of the count, the housing department attributed the rise to the fact that families who had been living in the emergency Family Center, happened to have moved out on the day of the 2016 count and the beds had not yet been filled. Generally those beds almost always at capacity, said Huang. As such, the City expects the number of sheltered homeless families to remain at similar levels to 2017 in the future.

The Housing Department reported that while Pasadena has made strides in reducing the number of chronically homeless individuals in 2016, this population continues to be the largest subpopulation within those homeless in Pasadena (34%) and the most challenging to house. Those remaining have more disabling health conditions than in 2016, and much higher levels than the general homeless population. Seventy-six percent of this group have physical disabilities (compared to 24% of the total homeless population); and 67% have chronic health conditions, compared to 25% of the total homeless population)

In addition, 52% struggle with mental illness, compared to 19% of the total homeless population, 31% have developmental disabilities, compared to 11% of the total homeless population; and 30% have substance use disorders compared to 11% of the total homeless population.

The decreases in the chronically homeless population are largely attributed to the success of the Coordinated Entry System, according to the report, which placed 63 chronically homeless individuals from Pasadena in permanent housing in 2016.

As reported in previous years, most homeless are unsheltered, with 60% reported living outdoors or in their vehicles. The remaining 40% were sheltered—including 10% in transitional housing and 30% in an emergency shelter or in a hotel or motel paid for by a charitable organization.
According to the report, two factors have contributed to the decrease in the chronically homeless population—the development of a Coordinated Entry System (CES) and an increase in Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH), with a focus on a “Housing First” approach targeting the chronic homeless population.

Previously, homeless persons had to navigate an uncoordinated set of programs that did not always offer permanent solutions to ending their homelessness.

Pasadena has however, since 2001, focused on developing a crisis response system that focuses on a coordinated Housing First approach that emphasizes rapid connections to permanent housing. Housing First is a simple philosophy that offers permanent, affordable housing as quickly as possible to homeless individuals and families. Once in a program, case managers work to engage participants in voluntary supportive services and connect them to community-based supports with the goal of helping them to remain housed. Income, sobriety, participation in treatment and/or other services are not required as a condition for getting housing.

In Pasadena, reported Huang, Housing First programs have shown promising results, as over 88% of program participants do not return to homelessness.

Huang noted, however, that any efforts Pasadena makes towards ending homelessness are tempered by the large homeless population in Los Angeles County as a whole. While 2017 homeless count numbers have not been released for LA County, the 2016 count recorded 46,874 persons homeless at a point-in-time.

The Housing Department is also looking forward to results from the passage of Measure H, which will provide funding for homeless services county-wide, Prop HHH, which will provide capital to build new permanent supportive housing in Los Angeles, and California’s “No Place Like Home” program, which will also provide capital for new permanent supportive housing projects county-wide.

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