Residents demand the city help the unhoused during the pandemic
By Terry Miller
In an alarming move, the City of Pasadena will sponsor no inclement weather shelter in Pasadena 2020-2021.
On Monday, scores of residents voiced their sadness and anger at city officials for not allowing Bad Weather Shelter at a time when the nights are getting colder and COVID-19 is at a breaking point.
During public comment Monday, Donna Sider said that Pasadena has a “moral imperative” to help those who are homeless this winter especially. An outreach coordinator for Lake Avenue Church, Amara Ononiwu, said the city needs to take “extraordinary measures to ensure no one dies on the streets of Pasadena this winter.” Bert Newton, concurred, “only 10% of the current homeless population is going to be housed in motels under the current plan.”
“I urge the city to provide substantial funding to protect our unhoused residents,” Sonja K. Berndt stated emphatically Monday.
There are FEMA trailers at the Rose Bowl and some residents feel this could be a partial solution. Samantha Jean Sumampong requested that city officials “support funds for motel vouchers beyond what the Housing Department is asking, allow tents and suspend citations for makeshift shelters (people are trying to survive), make use of any or all city vacant [sic] city owned property, housing facilities (including the 45 FEMA trailers at the Rose Bowl — which are provided by the city to use them as they see fit, and are currently sitting vacant), and allow safe parking for people to sleep in their cars overnight without citation.”
Pasadena Public Information Officer Lisa Derderian told Pasadena Now that the trailers are “in use.”
Perhaps Adriana Bautista summed up the public’s frustration best during public comment: “Rose Bowl received millions and they aren’t setting up state provided trailers. Why? Because the city doesn’t want to provide housing in proximity to the wealthiest neighborhoods. This is unacceptable and I’m ashamed of City Council and City Manager [Steve] Mermell for not doing better.”
Pasadena for All, the grassroots advocacy group, was alarmed to learn that for the first time in 30 years, there will be no Bad Weather Shelter in Pasadena this winter.
“The City of Pasadena seems to have given up on finding any alternatives to replace this much-needed community resource. As winter temperatures and hostile respiratory conditions oppressively land on the backs of the poor and ill, unhoused Pasadena learns there will be no Bad Weather Shelter. This news comes hard on the heels of the decision to suspend the 2021 Homeless Count, a vital tool that allows the city to assess numerical and demographic aspects of homelessness and evaluate efforts to combat it. Advocates are concerned that this sends the message that sheltering and counting our unhoused does not matter. Pasadena For All urges the City Council to consider all ideas for how we can provide safe, stable shelter for our unhoused neighbors in the upcoming months,” Pasadena for All said in a statement.
The group asks that the city consider:
- Funds for motel vouchers beyond what the Housing Department is requesting.
- Allow tents and suspend citations for makeshift shelters.
- Make use of any and all vacant city-owned property, housing, facilities including the reported FEMA trailers at the Rose Bowl.
- Safe parking by allowing people to sleep in their cars overnight without citation .
“With our own city health department, we can figure out a way to meet the very great need for resources using best practices,” the group advocates. “As a city, we can’t stand aside while people struggle to survive on our city streets with little protection other than a poncho during this deadly pandemic. This cannot be the way we enter 2021.”
“Even in more ‘normal times,’ the unhoused live in a crisis situation,” said Raquel Calderon, founder of Pasadena For All. “The pandemic only makes things more dire. In those normal times, we would look to our leaders to improve the quality of life for all people. In these difficult times, we look to them to make decisions and solve problems in the interest of saving life and easing suffering.”