At the last minute, changes were made in the South Pasadena homeless plan that made it more palatable to where the council unanimously voted, 5-0, to approve the plan Wednesday night without rejecting it and asking for an extension, which was the initial recommendation.

The $30,000 plan had been harshly criticized as being way too generic and not specific enough for South Pasadena purposes. In fact, it was characterized at one juncture as being a “waste of money.”

The city had recommended rejecting the plan and asking for an extension to allow the city and the consultants to work out the details. The plan had to be approved by the end of the month to be eligible for Measure H funding without a deadline extension.

But at the last minute, and just before the council took up the matter, City Manager Stephanie DeWolfe informed the council that the city had changed its recommendation from rejection to approval. The plan was modified where it now met the specific needs more so than before, or at the very least, had been cast in a different manner that was acceptable to the council.

The changes include a more regional approach where the city will work closely with other municipalities that have a significant challenge with the homeless, more so than South Pasadena.

South Pasadena has 11 unsheltered people experiencing homelessness in the city, according to South Pasadena Police Sgt. Shannon Robledo, the city’s point-person on the city’s homeless issue. In 2016, there were nine people.

“In 2016, the homeless individuals identified lived in vans, tents, makeshift shelters, and out on the street,” Robledo said. “In 2017, most of the homeless individuals identified lived out on the street.” Meanwhile, Los Angeles County has about 57,794 people that experience homelessness on any given night in 2017 – an increase of 23 percent over 2016, according to data provided by the county.

Pope also said the council voted to create a subcommittee, a task force if you will, that will address more specific issues pertaining to South Pasadena.

During the meeting, there was an emotional presentation by Sherrie, who was formerly homeless. She was living in an apartment, lost her job and found herself living under a bridge. Now, she’s in transitional housing and has a job.

Robledo introduced Sherrie to the council. 

“Thank you for coming and sharing that story,” said Mayor Pro Tem Dr. Maria Khubesrian. “It was super brave.”

The council, meanwhile, had earlier directed the consultant to go back and fix the plan, be far more specific to South Pasadena and bring it back to Wednesday’s meeting. The council had to adopt the plan by the end of June in order to qualify for additional grants under Measure H, which is the quarter-cent sales tax for Los Angeles County approved by voters back in March 2017. Measure H is specifically designed to prevent and combat homelessness countywide by way of funding mental health and substance abuse treatment programs, healthcare, education, job training, rental subsidies, emergency and affordable housing, transportation, general outreach, and prevention, among other services.

South Pasadena applied for and received the $30,000 grant of Measure H funds that were used to prepare the homeless plan specifically targeting the immediate area. It was unclear if the modified plan was going to be finished in time for a thorough review by the council.

It apparently was because the council unanimously approved the modified plan and therefore will be in line for more funding under Measure H.

Councilwoman Diana Mahmud, who was the harshest critic the first go-around, said the revised plan did provide more specificity and should be adopted.

“This is a much better document,” Mahmud said. “I definitely feel better about its prospects for approval by the county as the basis for funding … which is the ultimate goal of the city council.”

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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