The City of Arcadia hosted a community forum on Homelessness on Saturday at the Arcadia Performing Arts Center. The forum was designed to provide information on the topic of homelessness in Arcadia while also providing an opportunity for community members to share ideas and concerns regarding this issue.
Over 430 individuals registered for the event, either in-person or on Zoom. The forum was presented in English and Mandarin. A copy of the PowerPoint presentation and video is available on the city’s website at arcadiaca.gov/enrich/recreation___community_services/homeless_services/homeless_forum/index.php.
Vocal opponents to proposed tiny shelters in the city were present at the forum claiming that the now closed Homelessness Resource Hub — which was located at the city’s Par 3 Golf Course’s parking lot, adjacent to the Santa Anita Wash Trail — attracted homeless people to the city. The Hub, which was funded by a short-term pilot program grant, opened in November 2020 and was available every Thursday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Services at the Homeless Resource Hub included showers and laundry facilities, free Wi-Fi, charging stations, food, and clothing, on-site case management/housing navigation, job training, first aid services, resources for housing, flu shots, COVID-19 testing and vaccines, and more. The city reports that “To date, the Homeless Resource Hub has provided service to a total of 1,007 participants, the vast majority of which are repeat clients who return each week to the Hub.”
During the forum, Foothill Unity Center offered solutions with the work they have been doing in Arcadia, Monrovia and Pasadena. However, some in the community earlier this year questioned Foothill Unity’s programs and some even requested they cut services for unhoused residents.
The forum went well overall despite the length and complexity of the issue, according to Arcadia City Manager Dominic Lazzaretto.
“There were a few moments of excitement amongst the crowd, but I think the community began truly listening to each other and started sharing ideas on how to make progress on this topic. My favorite moment came after the forum ended, when I was talking out front with folks representing all sides of the issue. One of the participants said to another something like, ‘You were my sworn enemy, but I’m going to call you so we can go get a beer and talk things out…’ The idea was that they saw for the first time that there was some common ground on which we can build.”
In closing the city manager quipped, “My shriveled Grinch heart grew three times that day.”
The city will be creating a summary report of takeaways for the City Council to consider, in a week or two because the city is synthesizing not only the forum but the survey they did with the community as well.
Each year, the City of Arcadia participates in the Los Angeles Homeless Authority point-in-to determine how many individuals are experiencing homelessness. The count helps cities plan services and programs to address local needs, measure progress in decreasing homelessness, and identify strengths and gaps in current homelessness assistance system. Additionally, funding to local communities is largely dependent upon the count’s results.
The 2020 count for Arcadia determined that there are 106 individuals experiencing homelessness in the city. This was a 38% increase from the prior year. The 2021 count was canceled due to COVID-19. Since the first count in 2015, individuals experiencing homelessness in Arcadia have increased by 381%. According to the city, “part of this increase is due to changes in the methodology in how the PIT is counted as well as the City’s more active involvement in the count in the past few years. Regardless, there is no doubt that Arcadia has seen an increase in homelessness in the past few years.”
Earlier this year, the city considered a proposal to build a 15-shelter tiny home pilot project funded by a grant from the San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments around the Peck Park area. The proposal has been placed on an indefinite pause and currently, there are no tiny home shelters being built in Arcadia.