Union Station fights to end homelessness
By Summer Aguirre
Union Station Homeless Services/Submitted photo
Union Station Homeless Services has tirelessly worked to put an end to homelessness and rebuild lives since the 1970s.
According to Chief Executive Officer Anne Miskey, the nonprofit’s services are still required.
“The need is still out there,” she says. “It’s still huge. I think we’re doing a great job, but we can always do more. The city of Pasadena, the citizens of Pasadena and the San Gabriel Valley have been instrumental in our success, and going forward, we want to just continue to work with the community and bring our neighbors home.”
Union Station Homeless Services offers housing solutions, supportive services and building relationships with communities in Pasadena, San Gabriel Valley and Northeast Los Angeles.
Headquartered in Pasadena, Union Station Homeless Services is nearing its 50th anniversary. It was established by a local faith group as a drop-in center, growing into a multiservice agency providing assistance and support for people experiencing homelessness.
Its “full wraparound services” are shaped to address the needs of each individual or family. Team members work to get them into a safe, stable situation by developing a housing plan, which may lead directly to a permanent residence or interim “bridge” housing. They also determine and provide any required supportive services, whether that is assistance with basic needs, health care, education or workforce development.
Miskey emphasizes the nonprofit’s value of relationship building, as outreach teams are sent to directly meet those experiencing homelessness.
“It really is about that human connection,” she says. “That is what makes the difference in helping people get off the streets. Our team builds relationships with people and then really works to get those that we work with into permanent housing.”
According to Miskey, the nonprofit has helped more than 8,000 people with housing, shelter and services and supplied approximately 380,000 meals since 2020.
This year, Pasadena was one of the few California communities that experienced a decrease in the number of people reporting homelessness. A statement said that 2022 is down 9% from 19% in 2020.
Miskey says that while the reduction is small, it is a significant feat considering the number of individuals who fall into homelessness on a daily basis.
“In Pasadena, the reason for that is because we have incredible partnerships with this city, with the police department, with the public health department and with other agencies,” she says.
“Because we have this incredible, supportive partnership, it has made all the difference in the world in getting people off the street and into housing.”
She also attributed the decrease to the implementation of state- and city-funded interventions launched during the pandemic to keep people experiencing homelessness safe.
Union Station contributed to Project RoomKey, a COVID-19 response that provides wraparound services and secures temporary shelters at hotels and motels.
It also participated in the Project HomeKey program, which assists local agencies obtain the necessary funding to purchase and develop hotels, motels, apartments and other properties into permanent housing.
The nonprofit manages three hotels that successfully supported two full encampments, and opened a tiny village several months ago.
As the pandemic winds down, however, Miskey acknowledges fears of homelessness numbers climbing again.
“While we were able to do a lot during COVID, I think a lot of people are very afraid that was the end of some of these initiatives,” she said.
Within the next few years, Union Station’s team has projects in mind to construct high-quality, permanent housing for individuals and families. They will expand their jobs program and look into creating a health program focusing on mental health support, addiction and other health concerns.
“There are a lot of myths going on right now about why people are homeless and that it’s the fault of the individual,” Miskey says.
“With 15 years of experience, not only in Pasadena but all across the country we’ve worked, it really is about the high cost of housing and the lack of appropriate services for people. So, we can’t blame the individual, who’s the victim.”
Miskey urges the public to advocate for elected officials to implement true solutions for homelessness, creating more affordable housing and offering the appropriate services to assist the most vulnerable in our communities.
She encourages others to donate to organizations like Union Station, too, or look into nearby volunteer opportunities, as the knowledge of someone caring about them can be transformative for those experiencing homelessness.
“It is truly the volunteer support, financial support of the community, of our elected officials, the various departments,” Miskey says.
“They have helped us really be able to support people who are living on our streets and move them from homelessness into being reintegrated back into the community, being stable and really regaining their sense of hope and purpose in life.”
Union Station Homeless Services