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Guest Opinion | Brandon Lamar: Public Safety and Urgent Expansion of Mental Health Services in Pasadena

Published on Thursday, November 30, 2023 | 5:56 am

We share a deep concern for public safety, particularly in our parks, and the need for expanded mental health and outreach services is pressing. Recent incidents underscore the urgency for immediate action. While I commend our police department, City Manager, and other city departments for their efforts to ensure park safety, it’s evident that addressing the root causes of these incidents and providing 24/7 support for those in crisis is paramount.

During a recent community meeting, there was a call for increased funding to augment the number of Park Safety specialists. While acknowledging the importance of this, the current substantial need and crisis lie in expanding our PORT and HOPE teams, directly addressing the complex needs of our neighbors before crises occur.

The Pasadena Outreach Response Team (PORT) and the Homeless Outreach Psychiatric Evaluation Team (HOPE) have been invaluable resources during their operating hours. However, crises do not adhere to a 9 am – 5 pm schedule, with the majority occurring after 9 pm. To address this effectively, we must increase funding to expand the operating hours of these critical teams to 24/7, alongside increasing their numbers.

Our parks, including Washington Park, have unfortunately become places of refuge for homeless individuals and the backdrop for tragic incidents. To confront this, we need a comprehensive strategy involving extended outreach team hours and collaboration with local organizations and county partners.

While Pasadena has taken positive steps by partnering with the county for mental health treatment, the current crisis necessitates a reimagining of our approach to meet immediate community needs.

Crucially, we must reevaluate our cold weather shelter policy, recognizing that waiting for temperatures to drop below 40 degrees is insufficient. We must consider year-round shelter options while simultaneously working on long-term solutions like affordable housing, transitional housing, and permanent supportive housing. Efforts to prevent homelessness and displacement should also be a priority.

Reimagining our zoning policy is another crucial step, facilitating the construction of more affordable and workforce housing. This would allow for expanded programs like the safe parking program, providing safe overnight parking and stability for those awaiting permanent housing.

Reflecting on the tragic murder of a homeless woman in a parking lot, we must enact measures to prevent such incidents. The last Pasadena Homeless Count identified approximately 556 homeless residents. With a collaborative effort, there’s no reason why we cannot house the 0.40% of our homeless neighbors.

Collaboration with local organizations offering mental health support is paramount. By leveraging community-based organizations’ expertise, we can bridge the gap between immediate needs and long-term solutions. Volunteering for the upcoming 2024 Homelessness Count is encouraged.

Homelessness is a complex issue requiring a multifaceted approach. I am committed to advocating for increased funding for PORT and HOPE teams, expanding their hours, and collaborating with local organizations and county partners. Together, let’s create a safer, healthier, and more compassionate Pasadena for all residents.


  • Los Angeles County Mental Health Crisis Hotline – Dial 988
  • Pasadena Outreach Response Team (PORT) – 626.604.6693
  • Pasadena Homeless Outreach Psychiatric Evaluation (HOPE) – 626.744.4501
  • LAHSA 2023 Winter Shelter Program – Dial 211 or 800.548.6047

Brandon Lamar is a community organizer and a candidate for the Pasadena City Council District 3 seat. A lifelong resident of Pasadena’s District 3, Lamar has dedicated his life to social justice and equity for marginalized communities.

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