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Pomona community reduces homelessness 54%

Amanda Larsh
Assistant News Editor

The recently released report, “The State of Homelessness in Pomona” for 2013, found that through community support, the homelessness rate in Pomona has decreased 54 percent from 1,389 reported homeless in 2002, to 633 in 2013.

According to the report, the large homeless population Pomona faced between the late 1980s and early 2000s caused the city council to come together to combat the issue.

The city plan not only set out to seek new funding sources to address the issue, but also coordinated efforts to help the homeless in an ongoing project including providing emergency shelters, transitional housing, rental assistance, outreach and more.

“All of the organizations that work with homeless individuals and families have had the opportunity to come together for over 10 years,” said Housing Manager Benita DeFrank.

Since 2003, the city has relied on the Emergency Shelter Grant to provide funding for services and housing, Supportive Housing Program for transitional housing outreach and Shelter Plus Care for permanent supportive housing for those with disabilities.

In that period, more than $15 million has been used to aid the programs that benefited more than 30,000 people, at an average cost of $500 spent a person.

Over the years, the city has made strides in providing aid for the homeless population with projects like the annual Project Connect, which replaced the Service and Health Fair, to receiving more than $1 million in aid from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

As a result of these and other programs, Pomona reported a 54 percent decrease in homelessness, and claims to have prevented more than 11,000 people from becoming homeless.

“I think the city is doing a great job with their outreach program,” Community Service Manager Ilona Arends said.

Although she does not often visit the parks in Pomona, she gets feedback from citizens who rent the picnic venues at the parks. Many of them say that the number of homeless individuals living in some parks has decreased, she said.

“There is a big emphasis on making our parks family friendly and safer,” said Jan Cicco, the homelessness service coordinator for Pomona. “But we’re still working on that, and we hope it will be better for residents and the homeless.”

“Those individuals who are present, and who we can see are homeless, are still visible,” said DeFrank. “But what’s different now than 10 years ago is the outreach team that’s available so that if someone is ready to come off the street, the outreach team can gauge them to see if they’re ready.”

In previous years, the non-profits worked independently, often causing the homeless to be continually rotated through the numerous programs.

But as the city and non-profits began to work together, many of these redundancies were eliminated.

“Having groups like House of Ruth and the school district coordinate services is key,” De Frank said.

“Instead of duplicating what each other was doing, we worked together to prevent and reduce redundancies. That way we get to keep a steady relationship with the homeless population, and not just be constantly moving them from program to program,” Cicco said.

When surveyed, the homeless said they became homeless because of loss of income, domestic violence, disabling health conditions and a lack of affordable housing.

Some of the programs involved in combating these issues include House of Ruth, a domestic violence center in Pomona that helps women through counseling and therapy while providing a place for battered women, and their children, to live.

The largest challenge for service providers remains finding housing for the homeless, despite the decrease in their numbers.

But the benefits of housing them are enormous.

The cost for residents in supportive housing is about $600 a month per person, compared to the public cost of “chronic” homelessness, which is almost $3,000 a month.

“We’re attempting to develop the community together, and we’re working with non-profits, citizens, the city and the government to accomplish these goals,” said Cicco.

Amanda Larsh can be reached at amanda.larsh@laverne.edu.

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