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By SHEL SEGAL
With the growing number of homeless in the San Gabriel Valley, the city of Pasadena has decided to try a new approach to the problem.
Called “Project House,” those living on the street are still given traditional outreach services with one bonus: they are also given a place to live, said Anne Lansing, a project planner with the city of Pasadena who oversees homeless services.
“Once they are in housing, services are provided to them in order to keep them stable and housed permanently,” she said.
Lansing said that is a change in thinking then how public agencies deal with the homeless.
“That’s different from what used to be done – and is still done to a degree – which was homeless people would have to jump through hoops,” she said. “You’re homeless, you go into an emergency shelter. If you obey the rules of the emergency shelter, after a certain amount of time you’d move to transitional housing. Transitional housing was up to two years, and if you did what you’re supposed to do you would stabilize and go back into the community. For a lot of people that works really well.”
However, it doesn’t work for everybody, and therein lies the real problem, she said.
“But there’s a group of people – if you think of people who are stereotypically homeless – there are those things combined to make that group of people follow the rules, to stay sober, to take mental health medication,” Lansing said. “The thought was, ‘What’s the best way to end this person’s homelessness to get them into housing?’”
Lansing also said letting the homeless have some respect for themselves – and a little freedom – is better for them – and for public agencies – in the long run.
“You move someone into housing and all those services that were provided to them if they met various rules are then provided to them in the housing,” she said. “They need it anyway. And instead of spending the money on programs people are going to wash out of, it’s cheaper – and more effective – to put them into the housing, provide them the services in that housing. The thing that you’re looking at isn’t are you following the rules of your program. The thing you’re looking at is are you able to maintain the terms of your lease … It’s more human and more humane.”
Being homeless can take its toll on a person. And that toll translates into dollars that have to be paid one way or another, she said.
“The people who were washing out of these programs and staying on the streets for 20 years would have medical issues happen while they were out there,” Lansing said. “They would have medical emergencies. Paramedics would come pick them up. They would end up staying in the hospital for 30 days … It ends up being costly on society. But if you just put that person into housing all of a sudden they’re connected with the local clinic.”
(Shel Segal can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can be followed via Twitter @segallanded.)