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Home / Anne Miskey Union Station CEO

Union Station Prepares for Potential Rise in Pasadena Homelessness Caused by the Pandemic

Union Station quickly adapts to demands to keep the most vulnerable off the streets, provides housing under disease prevention guidelines and prepares for the potential rise of homeless counts due to COVID-19. – Photo by Alex Cordero / Beacon Media News

As government officials at all levels across thecountry scramble to provide answers for all issues surrounding COVID-19, UnionStation Homeless Services leaders are planning to deal with a potential rise inhomelessness rates caused by the pandemic.

Results for the 2020 Pasadena Homeless Count were based on a count performed in January — before the government shutdown of all non-essential businesses to help stop the spread of COVID-19 leaving thousands of people without jobs and causing an economic catastrophe.

“We know the numbers of those experiencinghomelessness is going to increase because of COVID and we cannot and must notleave people on our streets!” stated Anne Miskey, CEO of Union Station.

Union Station has been addressing new challenges thathave arisen due to COVID-19; they have been acting quickly to provide safeinterim housing for our most vulnerable neighbors and are making surefacilities meet disease prevention guidelines.

To tackle new challenges, Union Station has is working with Project Roomkey. Project Roomkey is a collaborative effort by the state, L.A. County and the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority to use motels as interim housing for people 65 or older, or with underlying health conditions that make them more vulnerable to COVID-19.

The pandemic has become a potentially deadlyadd-on to a list of problems someone in need of safe housing may be facing intheir daily lives. Without housing and without proper healthcare access,someone more vulnerable to the virus may experience deadly consequences and mayspread the virus in communities if they continue to live on the streets. UnionStation has been on the frontlines of implementing this program from the verybeginning, housing hundreds through Project Roomkey during the pandemic.

Union Station is also preparing for the potentialrise in the homeless count in Pasadena due to the pandemic in several differentways. “One thing we are doing, along with other advocates in the city, is toget Pasadena to amend its zoning laws so that faith communities can use theirproperties for both interim and permanent housing. This would enable them touse their land for such things as safe parking, pallet shelters and trailersfor temporary housing. The zoning amendment would also allow them to buildaffordable and supportive housing on their property. We know a number ofchurches in the community are interested in doing this and we believe thiswould be a great way for faith groups to really help those most vulnerable inour community.”

Union Station representatives have focused ondeveloping partnerships with other organizations and sectors that will aidpeople experiencing homelessness have better access to physical and mentalhealthcare, and addiction support.

They have recently partnered with USC Keck School of Street Medicine, a partnership that has been a lifeline to so many as we continue to adjust to our new reality and learn how to approach and conduct interactions safely.

In recent years, homelessness has become a prominent political issue as reports continuously reveal homeless counts may be inaccurate in some areas despite reaching all-time highs. Although this year the homeless count in Pasadena remained similar to the numbers reported the year before, an increase in homelessness is expected all across the country caused by evictions as rent moratoriums are lifted.

Not enough housing, systematic racism and incomeinequality “are so intertwined that it’s impossible to separate them. Weabsolutely need more affordable and supportive housing in our communities butthat will only happen when we break down the racist systems that allowcommunities to push back against more affordable housing. Too often we hearfrom community members, including many elected officials, that we ‘don’t wantan overconcentration’ of affordable housing in our neighborhoods. Sadly, thisis simply another way of saying we don’t want ‘those’ people in our community,people of color and those living in poverty. Yes, the urgent need is forhousing and for income equality — but that will only happen when we hold ourcommunities and elected government officials accountable for policies that keeppeople in low income jobs and keep out those who experience homelessness, oftenthose who are people of color.” continued Miskey.

The organization is also increasing communityengagement as one of their proactive measures to address the predicted increasein homelessness. “We know what works to end homelessness: all it takes is thewill to do it. That means we must hold cities and communities accountable fortheir policies and actions which continuously exclude those most vulnerable andperpetuate racism, inequity and ‘othering.’ We have seen calls for justicehappening around our country. It is now time to seek justice for those of ourneighbors who are experiencing homelessness.”

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