Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Make our Community Safer: House our Homeless Neighbors!

If you want to help solve Pasadena's homeless crisis, come to a 
Community Meeting in Council District 2 

Wednesday, Oct 17, 2018
6:30 PM

St Gregory Armentian Church, Geragos Hall
2215 E Colorado Blvd (enter thru parking lot).

"Marv's Place" houses 19 formerly homeless families 
and is an asset to the
(on the corner of Mar Vista and Union in Pasadena)
This meeting was called by Councilmember Margaret McAustin to discuss the conversion of a Ramada Inn to permanent supportive housing under a newly passed ordinance. It is crucial for people of faith and conscience (especially those living in East Pasadena) to show up and speak out in favor of this project.

Pasadena is facing a growing homelessness crisis, with the number of unsheltered homeless people increasing by 33% in the past year. This number will undoubtedly continue to increase until we house our homeless neighbors. As homelessness increases, so does petty crime and drug use. Police know and studies show that you can’t solve the homelessness problem by fining, dispersing or jailing homeless people. The best way to end homelessness is to provide people with safe, supportive housing. Here are some  talking points: 

What is supportive housing? Supportive housing is not the same as a homeless shelter. Shelters house homeless people for a few days or months, often in communal settings. Supportive housing provides long-term, individualized housing with a case worker to help homeless people find jobs and the services they need to deal with personal issues. People in supportive housing are no longer considered homeless.
Is supportive housing a haven for crime?  Studies show, and police agree, that providing homeless people with safe, supportive housing can actually help reduce crime. People in supportive housing are screened and monitored to make sure they abide by the rules. This creates safety for the community. “Despite some of the stereotypes,” said former Pasadena Police Chief Philip Sanchez, “affordable housing doesn’t impact crime. It doesn’t erode the quality of life. They’re highly regulated. They are highly monitored.” “The safety level is actually enhanced,” explained Lieutenant Mark Goodman, “because you are taking people from off the street and putting them into a situation that’s stable.”
Are homeless people “service resistant?” Homeless people who refuse to go to shelters are sometimes called “service resistant.”  The most common reason that homeless people resist shelters is that they are afraid they may be robbed or molested. Women and mentally ill people feel especially at risk in shelters. When offered the opportunity, most homeless people gladly choose to live in supportive housing where they have individual rooms and feel safe.
If the Ramada Inn becomes supportive housing, will East Pasadena be flooded with homeless housing?  The City Council has decided to experiment by permitting only three motels to be converted and then evaluate the results. They are also committed to making sure that each district has its fair share of homeless housing. The ordinance requires public input for each proposed motel conversion.
Will homeless housing hurt businesses and property values? Homeless housing is not a stigma, it is an asset to a neighborhood, since it will tend to reduce (not increase) the number of unhoused people in a given area. Well-managed supportive housing is preferable to poorly managed motels. Paul Little, CEO of the Pasadena Chamber of Commerce, said, “Local businesses don’t feel the impact of permanent supportive housing. If there is an impact, it’s a positive one because there are fewer people in doorways, fewer people sleeping on sidewalks, or under bridges.”

We don't need protection from the homeless. 
They need protection from us

By Sara Shortt, former director of C3, a homeless outreach program in L.A.’s skid row, wrote the following article that appeared in the LA Time, Oct 15, 2018.

Two men who slept on downtown Los Angeles sidewalks were beaten to death with a bat last month. In Santa Monica, four other men were attacked while sleeping outside, allegedly by the same assailant, two fatally. In Mission Hills, in the north San Fernando Valley, two unhoused people were burned in an acid attack in the wee hours of Sept. 30 — and the couple said they had been previously doused with gasoline and bleach.
As shocking as this particular spate of attacks is, violence against the homeless is neither uncommon nor unique to Los Angeles.
Early in September, three homeless campers were shot to death in Denver.
In August near Austin, Texas, the charred remains of a 66-year-old homeless man who’d been killed were discovered during a brush fire.
In June, a 70-year-old woman in Scottsdale, Ariz., was sexually assaulted and bludgeoned. A 22-year-old man was later charged with her murder.
The list goes on. It should be clear that those who have nowhere to sleep but under overpasses, in parks or on sidewalks are the most vulnerable people in a city. Yet when shelters, services or housing for the homeless is proposed in a neighborhood, opponents say it is those blessed to live in a house with doors that lock who are somehow now at risk.
Such cries of concern surface at nearly every community meeting, in petitions and in online comments.
A recent petition opposing a shelter in Sherman Oaks, for instance, states that the shelter will “increase crime” and “jeopardize our safety.” Merchants who opposed the new temporary shelter at El Pueblo in downtown — around which the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority has begun a cleanup and increased policing — cited safety issues as their top concern. In Venice, residents opposed increased services for the homeless, saying it would cause “severe harm to the surrounding community,” with one woman stating “it would put my children in jeopardy.”
Studies of actual crime rates among the homeless do not bear out these fears, however.
The Guardian, for instance, analyzed 11 city-sanctioned homeless villages of tiny homes in Seattle and Portland, Ore., and found that crime rates went down in five of those neighborhoods, stayed about the same in four and went up only in two. A 2013 randomized controlled trial in a housing-first program in Vancouver, Canada, showed that providing market-rate apartments around the city to homeless mentally ill people reduced crime. A Washington Post analysis of research concluded, “On average, researchers have found supportive housing facilities servicing the homeless and other vulnerable populations rarely lead to higher crime rates.”
Evidence does show, however, that homeless people are disproportionately the victims of violent crime. In one study that covered five U.S. cities, 49% of the homeless adults surveyed said they had been the victim of a violent attack and 62% had witnessed such an attack. A Los Angeles police report released in May stated between 2016 and 2017, there had been a 14% increase in the number of homeless people who were victims of Part I crimes — such as homicide, rape, robbery and aggravated assault.
Homeless women, whose numbers have risen dramatically in the last few years, are particularly endangered. In a survey conducted by the Downtown Women’s Center in Los Angeles, 50% of the women who sleep in shelters or on the streets of skid row reported they had experienced physical or sexual abuse in the last 12 months.
The great irony of course is that housing for the homeless isn’t the cause of crime; it’s the solution to it. Study after study shows that even those homeless individuals with severe mental illness or suffering from addiction have lower rates of criminal behavior once they have a roof over their head. Building shelters and housing will deter crime and protect lives.
Until those beds exist — and so far, they do not — those on the street need to be protected from violence, just as any city resident deserves to be.
It is clear who is truly unsafe because of homelessness and who just feels uncomfortable because of it. Instead of focusing on making communities safer from the homeless, we must keep the homeless safer in the community.

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