Frontliners See More Elderly Joining the Ranks of Pasadena Homeless

Published : Friday, May 10, 2019 | 4:40 AM

Those directly involved in the homeless crisis and who work boots on the ground alongside those living on Pasadena’s streets say they’ve noticed more senior citizens becoming homeless than any other population segment.

“We are seeing a lot of senior citizens that are homeless, unfortunately,” said Tony Zee, a Pasadena City firefighter and member of the Pasadena Outreach Response Team (PORT). “That group and the younger group are the big groups of people who are homeless in the city.”

PORT, a partnership between the city’s Fire and Public Health department, is a street-based approach wherein a team comprised of a social worker, nurse, firefighter, and outreach worker from Union Station Homeless Services is charged with identifying individuals suffering chronic homelessness and assists them in getting off the streets.

So, Zee is on the frontlines and knows of what he speaks. Ryan Izell of Homeless in Pasadena is also a frontliner and he is seeing the same trend.

“One of the things that we’re seeing is that, especially with older adults, folks who have fixed income just can’t keep up,” he explained. “It’s somebody either receiving social security, disability insurance, maybe receiving just north of $900 a month.”

At that rate, with rents being what they are regionally, meeting the monthly basics are difficult, he said.

“So we have a kind of structural inequality,” remarked Izell. “We have income that doesn’t provide a livable wage for folks. And then we’ve got the social safety net systems that are really meant to provide a support for folks when they’re down-and-out, when they don’t have the resources.”

Unfortunately, those safety nets are “porous,” according to Izell, permitting people to fall through the holes and onto the street.

Izell signaled his group’s approval of a City proposal to build a mixed-use development at the northeast corner of Fair Oaks Avenue and Orange Oaks Boulevard, including 70 units for former homeless seniors.

“That is definitely a step in the right direction, but more opportunities are needed,” he remarked.

Pasadena Mayor Terry Tornek is already on the record as saying homelessness is the dominant issue facing Pasadena. Out on the hustings for his reelection run, he said the feedback he is getting confirms the impression.

“It is the number one response that I get from people in terms of what their priority concerns are,” Tornek told Pasadena Now.

He said the City is approaching the problem with measures beyond PORT.

Tornek noted that the City continues to build affordable housing and in some cases, projects that resettle homeless families. The single room occupancy facility, Centennial Place, accommodates 20 homeless families. He has proposed, to no avail as of yet, a conversion of the old YWCA building across from City Hall to permanent supportive housing.

“And we continue to propose the motel conversion ordinance to try and capture some sort of ready-made units that we could get on the market quickly,” Tornek explained. “Our first effort was unsuccessful because of community opposition, but it’ll come back again. I think it’s still a useful technique and we are trying a bunch of different things.”