Published : Wednesday, January 16, 2019 | 5:53 AM
Pasadenans and their government will soon have an empirical picture of whether the city’s homeless situation has improved or worsened.
Orientation begins today for those volunteering to participate in the homeless census conducted by the city and its partners on Jan. 22 and Jan. 23.
Following the City of Pasadena’s proactive “Housing First” initiative, the number of homeless people within its boundaries dropped for consecutive years between 2011 and 2016.
That trend abruptly reversed the past two years as the index of homelessness sharply jumped higher 28 percent.
Jennifer O’Reilly Jones, homeless programs coordinator, City of Pasadena, said next week’s canvassing entails more than a walk or drive-by tabulation of those on the streets. She said that the canvassers not only count every individual, they also engage and survey them.
Those counted are placed in two separate categories. To be homeless does not necessarily mean to be without shelter, she explained. There are those who check in at a shelter most nights and others who may have vouchers to stay at a motel. These are counted through the data received via those programs.
Last year’s count occurred on the nights of Jan. 23 and Jan. 24, and yielded an estimated 677 homeless people. Of that number, 462 were living on the streets — 68 percent of the total homeless population. That figure was 33 percent higher than the number of unsheltered that was registered for 2017.
A workshop last May entitled “Addressing Rising Homelessness in Pasadena,” dispatched with the myth that people travel to Southern California generally, and the City of Roses in particular, to be homeless. In fact, 49 percent of the homeless at the time were from Pasadena, and another 43 percent from nearby cities.
The teams of volunteers and professionals who do the canvassing are expressly focused on those without shelter, who are usually made aware that the count is about to occur through an advance effort.
“People are generally willing to participate,” she said, “and even though we do ask personal questions, they are pretty cooperative and understand that it really helps us to inform the kinds of policies and programs and services we end up having in Pasadena.”
This year’s effort has enough volunteers, said O’Reilly. If the foul weather holds up into next week, she said, “We will go out, rain or shine. The volunteers are prepared for that. We want to conduct the count the same time Los Angeles County does.”
The program’s coordinators, she noted, are “hopeful” another spike is not evidenced.
“We have a lot of new resources coming online soon with Measure H funding and surplus funding from the state, but it’s a little early to see a drop in our homeless count as a result,” O’Reilly observed.
This year marks the first time the effort will operate through a mobile platform, whereby the volunteers will conduct the survey with their cell phones and tablets. “We hope that will help us in collecting better data and that it will go more quickly and smoothly for everybody,” said O’Reilly.
This year’s count will take place from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. Jan. 22, and from 6 a.m. to 8 a.m. Jan 23. Teams of two or three volunteers will be assigned to specific zones and sent out to collect the valuable data.
Volunteers should be 18 or older and must attend the orientation meeting on Wednesday, January 16 or Thursday, January 17 from 6:30–8:30 p.m. Register at www.pasadenapartnership.org. Call (626)304-3753.