Home at last
Number of homeless hits record low
By Rebecca Kuzins 05/04/2014
The number of homeless people in Pasadena decreased by 45 percent over the past three years — a significant drop that city officials attribute to Pasadena’s homeless policies and the improved economy.
According to the 2014 Homeless Count, conducted on Jan. 22, there were 666 homeless people in the city, a 14 percent decrease from the 772 persons counted in 2013. This was the third consecutive year in which the population declined, with the number of homeless people reaching 1,126 in 2011 and 904 in 2012.
The final report on the survey attributes the decline to the “housing first” and “rapid re-housing” approaches, which the city implemented in 2005 as part of a 10-year strategy to alleviate homelessness. The housing-first strategy, the report explains, “involves moving homeless persons, including chronically homeless individuals, from the streets and directly into housing,” before providing “wrap-around services,” such as treatment for mental health problems and drug and alcohol abuse counseling. Rapid re-housing, the report says, “helps families and individuals who are not chronically homeless obtain permanent housing immediately and to stabilize themselves as soon as possible.” To implement these policies, the city also developed 100 new housing units for homeless people.
“The count shows that the focus we’ve had over the past three or four years is working,” said Anne Lansing, a project planner for the city. “We’re focusing more on permanent housing, the housing-first approach, and that’s starting to bear out.”
Despite the decline, Lansing said that 666 homeless people “for a city this size is still a significant number. There’s still work to be done.”
In a memo to City Manager Michael Beck, City Housing Director William Huang listed other factors for the decline, such as “an improving economy and assistance from friends and family,” as well as the city’s bad-weather shelter, where homeless people can stay when it is too cold or rainy to remain on the streets.
The survey estimated that 38 percent of the homeless population is chronically homeless and “in need of longer-term assistance, such as rental assistance and wrap-around social services.” The remaining 62 percent is not defined as chronically homeless but, according to the survey, “will likely need shorter-term” rental assistance and social services.
The survey data indicate that the numbers of children, young people, seniors and family members who are homeless has declined since 2005. In that year, 56 percent of the homeless were members of families, compared with 123 people, or 18 percent, in 2014. In 2005, children who were 17 or younger composed 41 percent of the total, compared with 12 percent (83 people) in 2014; in the same period, the percentage of young people between the ages of 18 and 24 dropped from 14 to 5 percent (32 people). Seniors, defined as persons 62 or older, accounted for 10 percent of the total homeless population in 2005, compared with 7 percent (41) this year.