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Union Station Working to ‘Change the Narrative’ Surrounding Homelessness in Pasadena

Published on Saturday, January 23, 2021 | 5:25 am

Union Station Homeless Services in Pasadena is bringing together a panel of experts Monday for an online community discussion on tackling the homelessness crisis locally.

The forum will include “three prominent panelists sharing insights on how we can build better cities with inclusive housing for all, by learning from urban design and city planning successes from across the globe,” Union Station said in a written statement.

Scheduled panelists were Vinayak Bharne, who serves as urban design and city planning practitioner, adjunct associate professor at USC School of Architecture, principal and director of design at Moule & Polyzoides Architects and Urbanists and on the Union Station Board of Directors; as well as Steven Pon Tell, who serves as president of one of the nation’s largest nonprofit affordable and senior housing developers, National CORE; and Shawn Morrisey, who serves as senior director of advocacy and community engagement at Union Station.

Union Station CEO Anne Miskey will moderate.

“Homelessness is obviously a crisis and it’s everywhere,” she said. “We heard a lot of people talking about it, asking questions, a lot of misinformation and misperceptions about homelessness, some of which make it actually harder for us to do something to end homelessness for people. So we decided it would be a really good opportunity to do a series that really is about educating people about issues around homelessness, and also providing opportunities for people to ask questions and to engage much more around the topic.”

Monday’s conversation will revolve around the question: “How do you build an inclusive and healthy community while looking at the issue of homeless?” Miskey said.

The forum is the third installment in Union Station’s “Changing the Narrative” series. Prior forums focused on racism and homelessness, as well as the housing-first model of combatting homelessness.

Miskey said Union Station recognizes that every city has its own unique character.

“We look at Pasadena: There is so much in Pasadena’s history and heritage and architecture and physical layout that is beautiful. We’re not saying, ‘Let’s get rid of all that and just put a bunch of make-up buildings in and put low-income people in them,’” she said. “Instead, we’re saying: ‘How do we take a look at a city and retain the positive heritage and use that, but broaden who has access to that and incorporate people — this broad range of people — into a community in a way that celebrates what is good about a community, but also takes away the bad heritage.?’”

Racial segregation is a historic example of the dark side of local heritage, Miskey said. “That is a heritage we don’t want. We don’t want to segregate people.”

“When you’re looking at the homeless population or people living in poverty, what, traditionally, communities have done is taken those people and said, ‘We’re going to put you over in this area over here and keep you there. And you don’t have access to transportation or good schools or good grocery stores, because we’re going to keep you separated.”

“We’re saying that’s unhealthy, that’s unhealthy for everybody. So how do we bring this community together?” Miskey said. “It is about the ultimate humanity of everybody.

“It’s not just about helping that poor person, it’s about lifting us all up,” she said.

Those interested in taking part in Monday’s online discussion, scheduled at 5:30 p.m., were asked to pre-register online at

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