Craig Thompson, 60, greets Interim Police Chief Brian
Solinsky during homeless outreach. Photo by Steve Whitmore

As every regional city across the nation grapples with the challenge of homelessness, Los Angeles County officials came to South Pasadena recently to see what was being done here.

Representatives from Los Angeles County Supervisor Kathryn Barger’s office, deputies with the Sheriff’s Department, local police and city officials converged on Holy Family Church a-week-ago Wednesday to see what’s being done here to help the homeless right the ship and get off city streets.

And, if that can’t be accomplished right away, then to provide food, clothing and even a hot shower for those weathering the hardships of living without a home.

Holy Family Church provides about 150 meals a week to the homeless along with clothing, hygiene materials, referrals for services and even a hot shower every Wednesday, according to Marlene Moore, director of community services and the giving bank for Holy Family Church.

“I am here on behalf of the L.A. County Supervisor that  represents South Pasadena,” said Anna Mouradian, chief deputy with Barger’s office as she and others toured the church’s facilities. “We are learning more about what our faith-based communities and our community-based organizations are doing to partner and collaborate with the county resources that are available as well as local resources available here.”

So Pas Interim Police Chief Brian Solinsky, Sgt. Shannon Robledo and Councilman Robert Joe were on hand to facilitate the tour of the church facilities led by Moore.

“In 2016, we saw a need to address the homeless issue,” said Solinsky, as he interacted with the homeless on hand receiving a hot lunch as well as a hot shower. “We started from a very grass-roots effort, which involved one officer going out and meeting with our homeless community and finding out what they needed. The first thing we did was to identify who they were, where they were living and what their needs were.”

That officer was Robledo, who has been interacting with the homeless for the past two decades as a police officer. “It’s just part of who I am,” Robledo said during the tour. In all that time, Robledo also said that after hundreds of interactions with the homeless, he has never had a violent confrontation.
“It’s all in the way you approach them,” Robledo said. “If you approach them with understanding and compassion, it’s going to be positive.”

Solinsky agreed, saying one of the early misconceptions about the homeless is that they are committing crimes. Not so, he said.

“I think there is a misconception that homelessness is a criminal issue, but it’s really not,” Solinsky said, “It’s a social issue. We certainly address the criminal element but we also want to be there as a resource for our community because the homeless are just as much a part of South Pasadena as anybody else. We want to make sure their needs are taken care of as well.”

Solisnky also said the homeless population fluctuates.

“Right now, we have about 15 resident homeless people who are in our city,” Solinsky said. “But we have a lot more that come through our city from Los Angeles, Alhambra and throughout the surrounding areas.”

Solinsky went on to explain that local law enforcement began to work with faith-based organizations like Holy Family Church to provide basic necessities such as all-weather gear and basic hygiene equipment along with food, clothing, and hot showers.

“Everyone pulled together and now Holy Family, they have their food bank, which right now serves about 200 families every Monday,” Solinsky said.

The services provided by Holy Family do not go unappreciated by those who avail themselves of them.

One 51-year-old homeless man, who would only identify himself as Steve, said the services in So Pas are unique to the region.

“You can get food and clothing pretty much anywhere, but here you get a hot shower, clothes that really keep you warm,” Steve said as he walked down Fremont Street carrying his donation bag. “You can get stuff here that you can’t get anywhere else. I am so grateful for this.”

Steve said he’s been homeless for six months because he “gave up.”

“My wife, daughter and son were killed in a car crash and then about a year ago my dad died,” Steve said. “I just gave up. I was a CPA. I had a business right down the street here. I just gave up and started smoking crack (cocaine).”

Steve said he blew about $1.67 million in a short period of time and also blew 16 years of sobriety.

Today, Steve said, he’s got six months of sobriety and is trying to get off the streets. He sleeps behind the main Pasadena Post office on Colorado Boulevard.

“It’s the only place I feel safe,” he said. “I’m not cut out to be on the streets. I don’t know what to do and I am scared all the time.”

Steve didn’t want to give out his last name.
“I’m just so embarrassed,” he said as he hustled away down Fremont Street.

Steve Whitmore
Author

Steve Whitmore is the editor for the South Pasadena Review. Steve has spent more than four decades as an award-winning print and broadcast journalist with a 16-year stint as the senior media advisor for the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. Steve comes to us from the Keene Sentinel in Keene, New Hampshire, where he covered politics and was a columnist.

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