Homeless program ups its goals

Ken Lasch went from living in his car for nearly three years to what he calls No. 10 Downing Street, a nod to the British Prime Minister’s 100-room mansion.

The 83-year-old’s new apartment on Glendale Avenue is a far cry from one of the most famous buildings in the United Kingdom, but for the self-proclaimed optimist, the small abode, which is filled with donated furniture, has turned his life around.

“I have been helped tremendously with a place to live, including the furniture,” Lasch said at a homeless oversight committee meeting Thursday at City Hall. “I have an 8-foot-by-8-foot sofa and I only use one cushion.”

Lasch, who signed his lease in October, is one of 20 homeless people from Glendale who have been housed thanks to the 100,000 Homes Campaign — a national effort to house 100,000 homeless people by July 2013 — and federal housing funds funneled through the city.

Ascencia, a homeless services nonprofit, and city officials originally planned to house 10 people as part of the campaign, but have surpassed that goal. Steve Duenas, Ascencia’s case management supervisor, said they now plan to place at least 10 more people in the next three months.

So far, the campaign has housed about 11,500 people across the country, said Leslie Wise, the campaign’s field organizer for Los Angeles County.

“I think it’s had a fantastic impact on the community,” said Ascencia Executive Director Natalie Profant Komuro.

Not only has the campaign led to more people in permanent housing, it has also prompted some unexpected partnerships, such as connecting Ascencia with local hospitals and Veterans Affairs officials.

Of the 20 housed so far after starting the campaign, six have been veterans.

In addition to aiding veterans, Ascencia now has its eye on working with local hospitals to limit repeat visits by transients who could avoid emergency rooms if they took better care of themselves and had a place to live.

Profant Komuro said data is king when it comes to launching homeless efforts. The more numbers Glendale officials have, the better off they’ll be when forming new programs or asking for grants.

She asked library and public safety officials on the homeless oversight committee to start tracking homeless people who use their services and provide those numbers to Ascencia.

As of this month, Ascencia has surveyed 84 homeless in Glendale and found that 47 are vulnerable, which means that they’ve been on the streets for six months and have a health issue, are more than 60 years old, or have a history of cold-weather injuries.

City officials will be conducting their own homeless count later this month. Last year, officials counted 412 homeless people on Glendale streets.

The city has 50 emergency beds, 25 transitional housing units and 52 subsidies for long-term housing that includes case management, said Ivet Samvelyan, Glendale’s homeless services coordinator.

“Having permanent housing is a gap in our [homeless programming],” Profant Komuro said.

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