Researchers Put Faces on Pasadena Homeless Count; Discuss Cases, Causes, New Strategies

City commission hears homelessness cases, causes, and new strategies

Published : Thursday, August 15, 2019 | 4:48 AM

At left, Dr. Sofia Herrera of Urban Initiatives discusses four cases of homelessness which typify many she sees on Pasadena at a meeting of Pasadena's Human Services Commission on August 14, 2019.

A Pasadena Commission Wednesday received a “deeper dive” presentation on Pasadena’s homeless during which City staff outlined the creation of a new Homelessness Plan which they hope to present to the City Council in December.

As reported in the January 2019 Homeless Count, Pasadena has 562 homeless within its borders. That number was smaller than last year’s count, while California and Los Angeles County numbers have skyrocketed.

Dr. Sofia Herrera, of Urban Initiatives, put faces on a few of those numbers for the Pasadena Human Services Commission as she discussed what she described as four typical homelessness cases.

The first—Jane—found by All Saints Church, had recently moved back to Pasadena, ironically, just two years after the new housing she had been given in Los Angeles was sold. Jane had lost her original Pasadena apartment after the loss of her job.

Tom, in the Playhouse District, was a successful owner of a landscaping business with a degree in horticulture. Following a serious fall while at work, Tom lost his business, his wife, and his family relations, and began to drink heavily.

Bob, in his early 20s, was found sleeping in a church complex. He had “aged out” of the foster care system. He had no relatives, he said. He wanted to “avoid bad company,” and told homeless workers that he wanted to learn a skill and get an apartment. Bob felt additionally vulnerable as a young gay man on the streets.

Myriam was found sitting on a ledge near the Fuller apartments on Los Robles with her belongings. She sat in the same spot in the hot sun for a week, seeming almost catatonic. Workers said she didn’t seem delusional or psychotic. She seemed “mostly depressed.”

Herrera said all of the cases seemed to reflect a systemic failure in the City’s ability to find homes in the four cases, a situation the Pasadena Partnership to End Homeless hoped to remedy.

As described by Pasadena Housing Department’s Jennifer O’Reilly-Jones, the Partnership, also known as the “Continuum of of Care (CoC)” is the primary planning entity for housing and supportive services and coordinated resources for people experiencing homelessness,  as designated by HUD. She cited the Pasadena Partnership as a major factor in the decreasing numbers of local homeless, as well as the department’s emphasis on a “housing first” policy.

The Partnership is one of four CoCs in LA County, and is awarded approximately $3.5 million annually from HUD, as well as state and local funding, said O’Reilly-Jones. It is governed by a Board of Directors and comprised of a diverse range of stakeholders, representing over 50 organizations.

The City of Pasadena is called the local “Collaborative Applicant,” and is  responsible for conducting and coordinating a local competition for projects from partner agencies submitted to HUD. Selected organizations will be sub-recipients of any awarded grants through a contract with Pasadena, said O’Reilly-Jones in her presentation.

According to a 2019 study by the Hub for Urban Initiatives, 86% of people experiencing homelessness are single adults, and 14% are people in families, O’Reilly-Jones continued.

Typically, added the Housing Department presentation study, people without homes have a life expectancy almost 30 years shorter than that of the typical housed population.

The Housing Department presentation also cited the major causes of homelessness as institutionalized racism, the housing affordability crisis, criminal justice system involvement, foster care system involvement, as well as barriers to mental health care.

Of those listed in the count, 30% reported a lost job as the leading cause of their housing loss.

O’Reilly-Jones also noted that the City’s Rapid Rehousing, which features time-limited financial assistance and supportive services, has played a major role in housing the newly homeless.  Emergency shelters and basic services are also a pathway to permanent housing, she said, providing temporary shelter and assessment for permanent housing.

Over the last year, the Housing Department has housed 149 people, with 95 in rapid rehousing, and 54 in supportive housing, a longer-term proposition.

The updated Homelessness Plan, still in draft form, will provide recommendations to prevent and end homelessness in Pasadena by applying “evidence-based strategies and best practices to effectively meet the needs of persons experiencing or at risk of homelessness,” said O’Reilly-Jones’ in her presentation.

Working with the CoC and a professional consulting firm, the City will implement a community education and engagement campaign to promote solutions that are “proving effective at ending homelessness and increase public support for permanent housing projects,” added O’Reilly-Jones.

More information on the new plan is available at

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