Paramount City logo“Katherine,” a 37-year-old female living on the streets of Paramount, was reaching out for help. A team of City and law enforcement partners provided the support she wanted. Within hours, Katherine was driven to a mobile shower and then to the William Steinmetz County Women’s Shelter. There she received a hot meal, a bed to sleep in, and case management assistance to guide her into long-term housing and a new chance in life. 

Los Angeles County has seen a recent rise in the number of people suffering homelessness. The City of Paramount, during this same time, has experienced a healthy reduction in its homeless population. 

“This issue unfortunately touches every city and everyone in some manner,” said Paramount Mayor Vilma Cuellar Stallings. “There are no simple solutions, but when we share the same vision to help those in need, we help ourselves and our entire community.”

An important component in Paramount’s ongoing efforts was hiring a team of specialists from City Net to assist in gathering data and statistics to accurately identify individuals living without housing.

“This is an urgent issue and we wanted our approach to be innovative,” Mayor Cuellar Stallings continued. “Early on, Paramount developed an overarching strategy to concentrate on solutions, created a City Council Subcommittee on Homelessness, and quickly applied for funds from the Measure H sales tax.” 

The approach has produced positive results. The number of individuals without housing in the City has dropped considerably.

City Net is known for dedicating resources in a specific area and engaging those they encounter to get an intimate understanding of their situation, unlike traditional homeless counts like those conducted by Los Angeles County. 

The Paramount team – City Net, Paramount Public Safety, and Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department personnel – combed the City in the early morning of May 24 and late evening of May 26. 

The census revealed that 59 unsheltered adults are in Paramount, a 56% decline compared to a high of 105 in 2019. The particular decrease over the past year was 31% (85 to 59).

A single mother with two children became jobless due to the pandemic and, consequently, lost her apartment. Over the next year the tiny family lived in their car and the occasional motel room until a non-profit partner of the City’s was able to link them with rental assistance and get them into housing. The mother is now part of a job development program and continues to receive the non-profit’s stabilization and child services. Two other families, whose homes were destroyed by fire, were relocated by the same organization with rental deposit funding, thus avoiding a descent in homelessness. 

The City’s “Plan to Prevent and Combat Homelessness” was devised as a collaboration with residents and experts, and included a public forum to share thoughts and ideas.

From that …

One City employee now spends half of each day checking on homeless neighbors, seeing what they need, and hopefully connecting them with shelter and services. 

During the height of the pandemic, the City proactively supplied Paramount households who were past-due on their rent with one-time disbursements of $2,000 to keep them from losing their housing. This also included case management, credit counseling, and financial mentoring. 

The City has funded motel vouchers and encouraged local landlords to rent vacant units to people getting out of homelessness.

Other services include transportation to shelters, onsite medical treatment, making social services or mental health appointments, getting to the DMV to attain identification cards, and arranging to pick up prescription medications. 

The Safe Storage Program provides secure storage services for homeless neighbors to keep their personal belongings for up to 90 days. 

The latest tool is a partnership with the Salvation Army reserving 12 shelter beds for Paramount – four for females, eight for males. 

The Salvation Army’s Shelter in the City of Bell is eight miles from Paramount, allowing individuals to be close to their support systems. Everyone receives three nutritious meals a day, case management, employment search assistance, and long-term housing navigation. The cost is funded through the City’s American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) proceeds. 

Three people were discovered living inside their car at a local park. City staff helped them relocate to the Whittier Safe Parking program that provides access to restrooms, case management services, and hot meals. 

Here are Paramount’s numbers for helping folks transition:

  • 2020: 14 individuals to shelters, 4 to Safe Parking sites.
  • 2021: 18 to shelters, 6 to Safe Parking, 27 families receiving services, 10 of which moved into permanent housing through a non-profit partner. 
  • 2022: 9 to shelters, 2 to Safe Parking, 2 into Home 2 Employment Program via the local workforce development board. 

A gentlemen who the City took to a Safe Parking site later stopped by the Sheriff’s Station to express his appreciation to the staff member who was instrumental in finding him permanent housing, saying that he didn’t only want to reach out during the bad times but also when he was doing well.

“Paramount has a legacy of directly addressing challenges,” Mayor Cuellar Stallings noted. “We roll up our sleeves and get to work. We don’t wait for outside agencies to arrive, although when they do, we welcome their assistance. Our City Council and staff are dedicated to working harder and ever more creatively to provide services in hopes of moving our homeless neighbors into permanent housing.”