Pasadena Approves $1.3M in Homeless Relief After Clash With County

Mayor Terry Tornek described the funding situation as “fundamentally inequitable … infuriating and hard to explain.” John who is pictured here on Lake Avenue and the 210 Freeway probably agrees. – Photo by Terry Miller/ Beacon Media News

By John Orona

Pasadena approved over $1.3 million in coordinated homelessness services contracts over the next two years using its entire share of Measure H funding for that period, despite contributing about $7 million per year to the county coffers through the measure.

Measure H is a county-wide quarter-cent tax approved by voters in 2017 to combat the homelessness crisis over the next 10 years. The county administers those tax dollars on a pro rata basis based on percentage of the homeless population in each Service Planning Area.

Pasadena will use its share to fund four homelessness initiatives identified by the county — homelessness prevention, rapid re-housing, coordinated entry, and emergency sheltering.  However, the city would have liked to have been able to receive a block grant of funds and greater oversight over which initiatives were funded based on local need.

“The initiatives don’t include our highest priorities,” Housing Director William Huang said when the funds were approved last October.

“Because [the county] did not take into consideration our need or costs, there are some strategies we’ve had to decline,” Huang said, referring to the $100,000 the county wanted to provide for building a homeless shelter in Pasadena, despite the city finding the strategy ineffective for their homeless population needs. “You can’t build anything here in Pasadena for $100,000,” Huang said.

The initiative funding breakdown is as follows:

Homeless Prevention for Individuals Initiative

  • $146,231 to The Ecumenical Council of Pasadena Area Congregations.

Rapid Re-Housing Initiative

  • $300,326 to Union Station Homeless Services.
  • $150,000 to Hathaway-Sycamores Child and Family Services for transitional age youth.

Strengthening the Coordinated Entry System

  • $136,224 to Union Station Homeless Services.

Enhancing the Emergency Shelter System

  • $131,677 to The Ecumenical Council of Pasadena Area Congregations
  • $223,467 to Union Station Homeless Services

The county did work with the city to create some flexibility for how the funding will be used and will allow Pasadena to use $238,480 in Rapid Re-Housing funds to fill a case manager staff position that will focus on housing retention for rental assistance participants. They will also be able to use some of the emergency shelter funds for motel vouchers, which can be better suited for service-resistant homeless populations.

Pasadena is one of three cities in the county with its own continuum of care, along with Glendale and Long Beach. Last April the three cities wrote to the County Board of Supervisors asking for direct funding from Measure H, which the county approved last June.

“One of the major challenges in obtaining Measure H funding is [the] fact that the [Los Angeles] CEO determines what programs and initiatives it wishes to make available to the cities [with their own continuums of care],” a staff report read.

But after learning Long Beach will receive nearly $5 million in Measure H funding despite contributing no taxes to the cause while Pasadena contributes approximately $7 million, the council urged the mayor to author a strongly-worded letter to the Board of Supervisors asking for more equitable funding.

Mayor Terry Tornek described the funding situation as “fundamentally inequitable … infuriating and hard to explain.”

January 16, 2019

About Author

John Orona John Orona is an independent journalist focusing on local government and in-depth news features. He has covered white nationalist protests, the housing crisis and Senate campaigns. When not reading, he enjoys playing rugby, basketball and being extremely online.

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