Through the goals and initiatives outlined by the City of La Verne’s Plan to Prevent and Reduce Homelessness (Homeless Plan), the City has reduced its homeless count by more than 50% from 21 individuals in 2019 to 10 as of January 2020. In addition to decreasing the number of homeless individuals in the community, the City has also made great strides over the past year-and-half toward homelessness prevention thanks to the comprehensive nature of the Homeless Plan and access to grant funding.
Homelessness is a complex issue and has reached epidemic proportions in some areas across the State of California. This situation has, of course, been made even more challenging by the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite this, progress in the La Verne area over the last year-and-half has been made possible through a joint effort between several City departments and partnerships with local community organizations. The City’s Community Development Department has been extremely proactive in pursuing a variety of grant funds that have provided the means to offer resources and services to individuals at high risk of becoming homeless and those who already are.
Both Tri-City Mental Health Center and Union Station Homeless Services were enlisted to conduct community outreach, manage cases and administer necessary services to those in need. Between July 2019 and September 2020, these Community Navigator staff members have served 90 individuals. This has included coordinating housing resources (e.g. motel vouchers, referrals to Project Room Key and Hope for Home shelter programs), making mental health and other medical resources available, conducting landlord outreach, granting short-term rental and utility assistance, providing food and clothing referrals and more.
“By strengthening existing partnerships and establishing new partnerships, the City has enhanced both our ability and capacity to serve residents in need,” said Maia McCurley, La Verne Associate Planner, Community Development Department. “Staff continues to work on expanding our partnerships so that we may further enhance the resources and services we can offer to residents.”
To further assist in the City’s efforts to minimize homelessness in the community, the La Verne Police Department (LVPD) also launched several initiatives that allows for balance between homeless outreach and enforcement. In addition to providing regular department-wide training to all LVPD officers, the Homeless Outreach Services Team (HOST) was formed. Each of the five HOST officers has a designated role and area of focus, such as acting as the liaison with specific partner organizations like Hope for Home. The mixture of department-wide training and a designated HOST team enables LVPD to handle each homeless case on an individual basis, customizing outreach, resources and services based on each homeless individual’s unique story and situation. Knowing that homeless populations also tend to move around, LVPD has adopted a regionalized approach and regularly coordinates and collaborates with nearby cities like Pomona, Claremont and Azusa.
“We wanted to help set the standard for how police officers should handle and interact with local homeless populations,” said Sergeant Cory Leeper, La Verne Police Department. “We have been able to form relationships and build trust with our local homeless communities, which allows us to ensure these individuals get the help they need.”
The City’s Community Services Department also works with LAHSA to organize and staff the annual “Point in Time Count” for La Verne. This provides a better understanding of the number of individuals experiencing homelessness that are living within the County of Los Angeles and the distribution of these individuals amongst each community, like La Verne. Community Services staff are also often the first to learn of a new referral and connects them with the City’s Community Navigators and LVPD’s HOST team.
In addition to providing services and resources directly to those in need, the City has also leveraged grant funding to help address regional homelessness issues and regional affordable housing goals by partnering with the San Gabriel Valley Regional Housing Trust. The City is also partnering with the Los Angeles County’s Southern California Regional Energy Network and the Department of Workforce Development, Aging and Community Services, as well as the Cities of Baldwin Park, Duarte, Irwindale and West Covina, to launch the Green Pathway Career Program. This program will provide education, training, and vocational certification in the energy efficiency industry to Transitional Age Youth vulnerable to homelessness.
“While we are excited about the progress made so far, we understand that this will continue to be an ongoing need for many years to come, especially in light of the COVID-19 pandemic” said City Manager Bob Russi. “Individuals need access to rehousing, rehabilitation and mental health services more than ever and we are committed to providing these resources to help individuals get back on their feet.”
To contact members of the Community Navigator team, you can call Tri-City Mental Health Center at (888) 436-3246 or email Navigators@TriCityMHS.org, or reach out to Union Station Homeless Services at (626) 545-1487 or NFlores@UnionStationHS.org.