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Council Approves More Funds for Homeless Vouchers

Published on Tuesday, January 12, 2021 | 6:10 am

The City Council on Monday unanimously agreed to spend an additional $66,500 on the city’s Homeless Emergency Aid Program (HEAP) to provide weather-activated motel vouchers to people experiencing homelessness, and increase a contract with Union Station Homeless Services to $285,648 to provide vouchers to its homeless clients.

“I urge the council to ensure that all of our unsheltered residents receive shelter in bad weather this winter,” Sonja K. Berndt, a former deputy state attorney general, wrote in a letter to the City Council.

“This will avoid needless suffering and possible death simply because our unsheltered residents were left out in the cold and rain,” Berndt wrote.

The vouchers became necessary after Friends In Deed lost the location which normally hosts the annual Bad Weather Shelter. Although the organization secured another location, the pandemic prevented the operation of a shelter.

“It is necessary that people are provided safe housing, especially now with COVID rates so high and rainy weather,” said Franz Silver. “There is enough money to be spent for motel housing, this is honestly the bare minimum. Housing is a human right. People who wish to use these motels must be provided transportation and storage for their belongings … ordinances for loitering and overnight parking must be suspended, displacing and fining people does not solve anything. It is your job as city council to provide for your city, so do it and actually help people.”

Last season, the Bad Weather Shelter served 55 people on its busiest night, a number that has been decreasing over the past several years due to an increase in emergency shelter resources outside of Pasadena.

“This winter, Friends In Deed, the operator of the Bad Weather Shelter for over 30 years, along with Union Station Homeless Services [in collaboration with the Police Department’s Homeless Outreach Psychiatric Evaluation, or HOPE Team] and the Pasadena Public Health Department [in collaboration with the Public Outreach Response, or PORT Team] will continue to provide cold weather relief and emergency shelter resources, albeit in different ways, which have been determined to be safer than site-based congregate shelter during the pandemic,” according to the report.

“Weather-activated motel vouchers will be provided through street outreach teams currently operated by each of these three agencies throughout Pasadena which are familiar and regularly engaging with the vast majority of people who are experiencing unsheltered homelessness in the city,” the report states.

In addition, the city Housing Department will publicize information about the county of Los Angeles’ 47-bed winter shelter operating at Loma Alta Park in Altadena.

Street outreach teams will provide information about the county winter shelter and, if needed, assist people with transportation via Uber, Lyft and Dial-A-Ride. The shelter will operate on a weather-activated basis. When open, clients are allowed to remain on site 24 hours a day. People looking for updated information about the Loma Alta Winter Shelter, including whether or not it will be open on a given night, should call 211.

The City Council has also approved $25,000 for Friends In Deed to purchase supplies and staffing to distribute cold-weather supplies, such as ponchos/jackets, blankets, tarps, and umbrellas. This will include the distribution of warm clothing and cold weather supplies through street outreach teams and at regularly scheduled community meal programs.

Shelter plans are activated when overnight lows drop below 40 degrees or the chance of rain is greater than 40%.

Friends In Deed outreach workers will distribute cold-weather supplies at Pasadena Presbyterian Church’s twice-weekly meal distribution program from 4:30 to 6 p.m. Thursdays and Sundays.

Friends In Deed outreach workers will also deploy a mobile outreach unit from 5 to 9 p.m. to distribute cold weather supplies to homeless people.

The previously executed Emergency Solutions Grant (ESG) and Measure H contracts between the city and Friends In Deed to administer the Bad Weather Shelter program will be amended to revise the scope of service and modify the budgets for the provision of a non-congregate shelter using motel vouchers.

The City Council previously approved the transfer of $75,000 from the Housing Department’s budget to the Public Health Department’s budget to administer motel vouchers to people who are receiving services through the PORT Team or the Department’s Transitional Age Youth (TAY) and Geriatric Empowerment Model (GEM) Link programs, all of which serve people experiencing homelessness.

“In order to further expand the total number of weather-activated motel voucher resources available to people who are unsheltered staff is recommending an additional transfer of $66,500, from the Housing Department’s operating budget to that of the Health Department, to provide temporary weather-activated shelter stays at local motels for existing clients and a limited number of outside clients to be referred by partner agencies. This transfer will increase the city’s capacity to ensure timely access to available resources to a larger subset of clients,” according to the city staff report.

The program is scheduled to begin this week.

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