Sprawled across an overstuffed couch on a recent afternoon, PlayStation video game controller in hand, Adam Cartwright looked utterly at home in his one-bedroom apartment in West Glendale.
Prior to moving in two weeks ago, he hadn’t slept indoors in 12 years.
“It feels good,” said Cartwright, 31, as he leaned over to pat his roommate and constant companion, an 80-pound pit bull named Zeus. “When I was on the street, I was looking for a place to sleep every day.”
His was the first of what social service officials hope will be at least 10 successful housing placements of chronically homeless individuals in the coming months. The push is a united effort between the city of Glendale and Glendale PATH Achieve, the largest local homeless services provider.
Officials are using a $160,000-federal grant to subsidize housing for the chronically homeless, and to create wraparound services that will keep their clients put. They hope to eliminate all veteran homelessness in Glendale by next summer.
“We have three more individuals who are at different stages of the process so our goal is to be able to place the second one hopefully by the second week of August,” said Ivet Samvelyan, the city’s homeless services coordinator.
To qualify for the city’s subsidized housing program, participants must meet regularly with case managers, save money, undergo treatment for substance abuse and mental illness and prove themselves to be good tenants.
“The hardest job is post-placement,” Samvelyan said. “What happens is they are in housing and they still want to go out and do what they want to do. But the clients actually have to comply with case management rules.”
The challenges working with the chronically homeless are tenfold, experts said. Many struggle with mental health and substance abuse issues, or a combination of both. They can be distrusting of strangers, and some lack basic work skills.
“It is difficult because clients such as Adam have been living on the streets for years, and they have lost those skills — how to socialize with people who aren’t homeless,” said Steven Dueñas, one of Cartwright’s two case managers. “They have a select set of friends who are also homeless and that is who they talk to on a daily basis.”
Cartwright has long been a familiar face in Glendale; social service workers had seen him come and go for years, always refusing services. He said he used methamphetamines, struggled with mental illness and most recently was sleeping in a parking lot.
In May, his acquaintance with local social service workers took a positive turn during a citywide homeless count. It was part of the national 100,000 Homes Campaign, launched by New York City-based organization Common Ground and focused on moving 100,000 chronically homeless individuals into permanent housing.
During the census, representatives from PATH Achieve Glendale, the Police Department and faith-based organizations blanketed the streets for three days to collect data. They counted 73 transients, of whom 43 were interviewed. Thirty-five of those were classified as vulnerable, meaning they suffered liver disease, end-stage renal disease, HIV/AIDS or wet- or cold-weather injuries.
“Adam was one of the clients who was prioritized as [being highly] vulnerable on the streets,” Samvelyan said. “We started working with Adam right after the survey.”
Cartwright is now paying $197 in rent, a third of his disability income. His apartment is full of furniture donated by PATH Achieve staff and community volunteers.
Zeus has already found a comfortable spot, he said.
“He sleeps on the couch,” Cartwright said. “He won’t jump on the bed, but he will jump on the couch.”
Those who are working on his case called his placement a joy, even if it was just a starting point.
“Everyone has been very excited for him, but we know our work doesn’t stop here,” Dueñas said.