Homeless “Cowboy” Bob and Sofia Peralta, LAHSA. Courtesy photo

The South Pasadena Police Department last week participated in Los Angeles County’s official homeless count, which is designed to document as much as possible the number of homeless people living within the county.

More than 7,000 volunteers were expected to participate countywide in the three-day event that started Tuesday and ran through Thursday of last week, according to the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority.

Locally, the So Pas Police were joined Tuesday night with a So Pas Public Safety Commissioner and a Los Angeles Homeless Service Authority (LAHSA) crisis outreach worker as they fanned out across South Pasadena from about 7:30 to 11 p.m.

“Members of the police department along with a member of the Public Safety Commission and a Los Angeles Homeless Service Authority (LAHSA) crisis outreach worker participated in the Greater Los Angeles homeless count,” So Pas Police Sgt. Shannon Robledo said in an email to The Review after the event. “The 12 contacted homeless were offered resources and given backpacks that contained care/hygiene kits, cold weather gear, blankets, hats, granola bars, water and a list of local resources.”

Grace Liu Kung, Public Safety Commissioner, and Sofia Peralta, from LAHSA, accompanied Robledo along with So Pas Police Sgt. Matt Ronnie, and officers Darin Wong and Ryan Hang.

“We had three cars out,” Robledo said during a telephone interview. “We visited all the priority areas and where the homeless usually are living. We then canvassed the side streets and the core of the city.”

Robledo and his team also handed out fully-stocked new backpacks to the homeless they encountered.

“They loved the backpacks,” Robledo said. “We even had two people come up to the counter here at the station and asked for their backpacks. They asked for me by name. They also got resources to services that are available to help them get off the streets. That is what is most important.”

Robledo, who is the point-person for So Pas regarding the homeless issue, said these interactions with homeless are vital because they break down barriers.

“I really believe this is important because they get the resources that help them live a better life,” Robledo said. “We are helping people, guiding them, and that’s what this is all about.”

The local number will be added to the official homeless count for Los Angeles County. This figure helps determine how money is disbursed throughout the county, including $350 million in sales tax revenue generated each year from Measure H, a homeless tax passed in 2017, according to LAHSA.

The So Pas City Council adopted its own plan to combat homelessness back in June 2018. They needed to submit the local plan to be eligible for Measure H funds.

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 and received a $30,000 grant of Measure H funds that were used to prepare a homeless plan specifically targeting the immediate area.

Last year, South Pasadena had 11 unsheltered people experiencing homelessness in the city, according to city officials.

“In 2016, the homeless individuals identified lived in vans, tents, makeshift shelters, and out on the street,” according to data prepared by Robledo. “In 2017, most of the homeless individuals identified lived out on the street. This trend is consistent with most of the cities throughout the county. The purpose of the City of South Pasadena’s (plan)… is to set a roadmap for the city over the course of three years to further address the needs of its homeless residents and those who are at risk of homelessness, as well as to participate in regional solutions.”

The plan identifies six areas that need to be addressed. They include reducing the extent and scope of homelessness within the city footprint, aligning city resources with county investments, reducing city costs that are not contributing to combating homelessness, improving quality of life for all residents and promoting “more livable cities for current residents and future generations.”

The plan also breaks down the living arrangements this way: In 2016, two people were living on the street, three in vans, two in tents and two in makeshift shelters while in 2017, eight people were living on South Pasadena streets and three were living in cars. The plan does not address the shift away from shelters to the streets. 

Homelessness declined four percent countywide, according to LAHSA, but the number of tents, vehicles and makeshift shelters increased.

This snapshot of the homeless population, expected to be released in May, is the largest homeless survey in the nation in terms of area covered, according to LAHSA.

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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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