In the dark of night, they hide in alleys and parks, in places no one comes, not even the cops. They are the invisible people who live on our streets.
Even in the daylight when they wander down the sidewalk with shopping carts overloaded with junk, we are likely to look the other way and make them as invisible as possible.
They are the chronically homeless — the mad, the sick, the jobless, the disabled, the detritus of a society with too many rules, too many controls, too many demands for conformity in a high-tech world that puts the competence of all of us to a test.
Hopeless in most of our eyes, they are an inspiring challenge to Natalie Profant Komuro and her team at Path Achieve Glendale, a homeless program that provides shelter and help to the hundreds of people who live on the streets of the city.
“We could actually end chronic homelessness in Glendale,” Komuro tells a skeptical visitor to the group’s shelter and office tucked away between warehouses and parking lots near the railroad tracks off of San Fernando Road and Los Feliz Boulevard.
“Our mission is to end homelessness one person, one family at a time. We try to make sure everybody has a roof over their head.”
It is a daunting task that will put Path Achieve to a test this week when staff and teams of volunteers head onto the streets at 4 a.m. Monday for a three-day effort to find the homeless and offer them help to get their lives back on track.
It’s called “Glendale Registry Week: Homeless to Home,” part of a national effort to get 100,000 people off the streets and into housing within two years.
There’s still a chance to volunteer by showing up at First Baptist Church, 209 N. Louise St., by 2 p.m. today for training. You also have to commit to participating three straight days, Monday through Wednesday, at 4 a.m. for two hours of canvassing.
Komuro has worked for 20 years trying to find answers to the homeless problem, half of that working on planning and policy issues for the L.A. Homeless Services Authority that serves every city in the county except Pasadena, Long Beach and Glendale, which have their own programs.
In 2007, she became executive director of Path Achieve Glendale, which has a 40-bed shelter and provides comprehensive care to the most vulnerable people on the streets— people often in need of medical, dental, psychiatric care, counseling for addiction and much more.
“What I love about this place is that we do A to Z,” Komuro said. “We know that 70% of the people who leave our shelter are going to get into housing and stay there with support. It takes a lot of patience to help them work through their bad choices sometimes, but it can be done. We’re doing it.”
Registry Week is trying to identify the high-risk homeless, win their confidence and get them into the support system.
“We don’t want people dying on the streets,” Komuro said. “These are people who have the greatest health needs and wind up in emergency rooms a lot, getting expensive care. From an ethical and economic standpoint, we need to get them into housing, get them the care they need.”
Funding for the program comes from the federal, state and city government, amounting to $1.8 million a year. Glendale plans to reduce its funding as it tries to erase the city’s budget deficit, and there are concerns about other sources of funding.
Several hundred volunteers help buy the food and prepare dinner for shelter residents every night and contribute in many other ways.
For the staff at Path Achieve Glendale, the homeless are not invisible. They are individuals with specific issues who need specific help, and the real rewards come from seeing them get permanent housing and begin to rebuild their lives.
“This is a real person here. We have to ask ourselves, ‘What are we going to do to help this person?’ That’s what it takes to get them into housing,” Komuro said.
“It’s what keeps me sane. I love doing this.”
RON KAYE can be reached at email@example.com. Share your thoughts and stories with him.