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City to Hand Out Motel Vouchers as City Prepares For Rain With No Bad Weather Shelter Location

Published on Tuesday, November 29, 2022 | 11:54 am

As rain enters the forecast this week, the City will be without its Bad Weather Shelter once again.

The City and Friends in Deed, the nonprofit that has been operating the shelter as the City’s partner, searched for a new site after Friends in Deed lost its lease two years ago to the shelter at Pasadena Covenant Church on Lake Avenue. 

The City will give out motel vouchers to homeless people. Friends in Deed will do its part in January, according to Executive Director Rabbi Joshua Levine Grater.

“Like everyone else, we were disappointed that no location was found for opening an overnight shelter this season,” Grater said. “Along with Friends In Deed, I understand that Union Station and the Public Health Department are gearing up to put folks into motels on cold and rainy nights this winter. Friends In Deed will start our motel program, and our cold weather distribution program the first week of January.”  

The city attempted to find a new shelter, but could not find a property owner willing to negotiate with the City.

Among other reasons, the shelter closed down during the pandemic due to concerns that COVID-19 could spread at the site.

According to the most recent homeless count more than  500 residents of Pasadena are experiencing homelessness as of January 2022.

Since 2020, Friends in Deed has given out motel vouchers for the homeless using the weather-activated program – or during nights when the temperature is forecast to be less than 40 degrees, or when there is more than a 40-percent chance of rain. 

According to weather reports there is currently a 58% chance of rain on Friday and a 46% chance on Saturday this week. 

In April, Housing Director Bill Huang said the Housing Department and Friends in Deed agreed to continue the motel voucher program, at least for this winter.

That news is not bad.  

Motel rooms have some advantages over gymnasiums and churches. The rooms typically have doors that lock, private bathrooms and possessions are safer. 

The vouchers also allow occupants to stay the whole day in the motel instead of having to leave the shelter every morning and come back at night, which is how the bad weather shelter operated. 

A local housing advocate said the system does not do enough.

“Our city’s motel voucher program is inadequate and inefficient, both as a method of sheltering residents in bad weather and as a method of providing interim housing for the long waits to permanent housing,” said Sonja Berndt.  “Our city leaves unsheltered residents out in the cold despite the fact that our Housing Department staff has stated publicly that it is “very unsafe” living on the street.  The city relies on state and federal money to provide much-needed shelter and fails to provide dedicated funding from our General Fund to ensure that our unsheltered residents receive basic shelter and services.  Our city needs to provide much more local funding to address the problem of unsheltered homelessness.”

A bad weather shelter needs three things to make it viable. One is a very large storage area for all of the cots and the bedding that has to be taken down and put back up each night. A large enough area for 50 to 70 people to sleep, a commercial kitchen and bathrooms that has clear access to restrooms, both for men and for women, Grater told Pasadena Now in April. 

The site should also be centrally located so it would be accessible to most of the homeless around Pasadena and a willing staff that would agree to house the homeless population. 

Friends in Deed relies mostly on volunteers to do the food and supplies distribution, limited nursing care, some skin care management and other services during cold-weather nights. The nonprofit, under its agreement with the City, provides the staff, food, security management, and limited insurance. It also pays for commercial cleaning at the shelter after each use. 

There will be fewer volunteer opportunities with the motel voucher program, but he hopes to be able to have volunteers doing other work in support of the homeless population.

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