Guest Opinion: There is a New Urgency to Talk About Homelessness and Housing in Our City

Published : Tuesday, May 28, 2019 | 4:01 PM

Although my work at Friends In Deed rarely involves me wading into policy or politics in regard to homelessness and housing, with the release of the recent homeless count there is a new urgency to talk about what is happening in our city. And while the number of people experiencing homelessness is lower, and that is quite commendable, the truth is that many of those people who are no longer on the streets were not housed in Pasadena and the number of chronically homeless has noticeably increased. And when the forthcoming homeless count report from LA County comes out soon, early analysis is warning to expect an increase there as well.

We read this week that our City Council is frustrated and dismayed by the state of homelessness in our city of compassion. However, when we had the opportunity for a motel conversion, a recognized best practice in battling homelessness, the city council decided not to pursue the project after a handful of residents protested loudly. The crowd wouldn’t listen to how this project would benefit the community, and it was disappointing that more of the council didn’t speak up in support.

If the City Council is sincere in asking what can be done, and I want to believe that it is, then I would respectfully challenge each councilmember to hold a variety of town hall meetings for the next 60 days, and talk with your constituents about your plans for battling this vexing issue, and allow those of us who work with our homeless neighbors every day to be heard, and to take questions.

Believe me, we have real solutions to this very real problem. If you are willing, please contact your councilmember and request a town hall. I also plan to invite each councilmember to take a personal tour of Friends In Deed to see first hand, and interact with, our clients and guests. I imagine my colleagues at any of our partnering agencies would be happy to do the same.

All faith traditions call on us to care for, and not ignore, the most vulnerable and at-risk members of our communities; these faith traditions also call us to hold each other accountable when we’re not living up to our highest potential. If we approach the challenge before us with compassion, strength, and the necessary fortitude to do the right thing, we may find ourselves less frustrated and dismayed.

Rabbi Joshua Levine Grater is the Executive Director of Friends In Deed. Learn more at







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