Each day in Pasadena, the most vulnerable people in our community, including our homeless and at-risk neighbors, come to a variety of agencies and faith communities for food, shelter, protection, compassion and love. While meeting their immediate physical needs, these agencies also seek to provide hope and optimism for their clients. The hopes we work to keep alive are these: if you are homeless, one day you will have a roof over your head; if you are suffering food insecurity, one day you will no longer wonder where your next meal will come from; if you struggle to pay your rent, perhaps one day that struggle will end. But, sometimes we fear that we are feeding a false sense of hope when it comes to housing. Affordable housing, let alone permanent supportive housing, transitional housing, rapid rehousing, is so scarce here in Pasadena, that it is difficult to believe that anyone cares enough to do what it will take to provide homes for our homeless.
These are the raw facts: there is only an approximately 2.4% rental-vacancy rate in Pasadena, and average monthly rent for a one-bedroom is $2300. Are permanent supportive housing projects for those who need them an option? It doesn’t appear so at this time. People are entered into the Coordinated Entry System, a county housing navigation database, but we know that nearly 85-90% of these folks will never be housed, and if they are among the lucky ones, it most likely won’t be in Pasadena.
So, the burning question for us, from a sociological, theological and moral standpoint, is this: do we really care about helping the homeless and most needy in our community, or do we just say we do when it’s expedient? Are we willing to do what it takes to significantly reduce the homeless population in Pasadena, which according to the latest 2018 statistics, is up 33% from last year to nearly 660 unsheltered individuals, or are we just offering band-aids that make us feel better but offer no real solution? After working in this community, some of us for decades, as clergy and people of faith, it seems like the veil needs to be lifted, serious soul-searching needs to happen, and folks need to get honest with themselves and with our homeless brothers and sisters. Other cities are taking unique and bold approaches to housing options (tiny house villages in Seattle, RV and micro home communities with social services outside Austin, TX). We are fighting desperately to convince the city to designate one location for housing 68 homeless seniors. This is a huge battle, and it really shouldn’t be. In the words of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, “This is no time for neutrality.” No more commissions, studies, task-forces or empty promises. If we truly care, by this time next year, something of consequence will have happened on this burning issue; if it hasn’t, then we need to admit that we are only interested in having the same conversation again, and again, and again, offering nothing more than a balm on our own hearts and minds. For the sake of our homeless and at-risk neighbors, and ourselves, we continue to work for real change, and we pray that you will join us.
Submitted by (In alphabetical order):
Rev. Donna Byrns, Community Liaison, Friends in Deed
Rev. Connie Larson DeVaughn, Altadena Baptist Church
Rev. Lissa Gundlach, Neighborhood Unitarian Universalist Church
Samantha Gupta, Intern Minister, Throop Unitarian Universalist Church
Rev. Mike Kinman, Rector, All-Saints Church, Pasadena
Rabbi Jonathan Klein, Executive Director, CLUE-LA
Rev. Tera Klein, Throop Unitarian Universalist Church
Rabbi Joshua Levine Grater, Executive Director, Friends in Deed
Rev. Sandy Olewine, First United Methodist Church, Pasadena
Rev. Marlene W. Pomeroy, Co-Pastor First Congregational Church of Pasadena, UCC
Rev. George Van Alstine, Altadena Baptist Church