Helping the homeless in Glendale isn't easy

When homeless outreach workers David Broadway and Alfred Hernandez went to pick up a homeless client to give him a ride to his psychiatrist in Glendale last week, the man didn't show up at the meeting spot on Colorado Boulevard.

The duo waited outside Yum Yum Donuts in Eagle Rock in the rain for about 10 minutes and then hopped back in their van to search for Ricky Hastings, who had been out of the system — with no birth certificate and no Social Security card — for three decades before Broadway spent months trudging through layers of bureaucracy to get him food stamps and a monthly subsidy for impoverished adults of roughly $200 a month from Los Angeles County.

They circled a Target, Starbucks and a nearby church that gives free lunches to the destitute, spotting other homeless people they knew along the way — including a 33-year-old Iraqi War veteran — but Hastings was nowhere to be found.

They ended their search at Carr Park, where Hastings sometimes hangs out.

“I hope we can find him,” Broadway said.

“I hope so, too,” Hernandez replied. “He has to see the doctor.”

But they never did.

Ascencia has several clients who seek out the Glendale-based organization for help, but there are those that Ascencia has to search for to provide assistance. Getting the homeless off the streets in Glendale, Burbank and northeast Los Angeles is a waiting game. 

Outreach workers wait for their clients to accept help, but once they do, some of the displaced, like Ricky, may disappear.

Yet, Hernandez and Broadway keep coming back.

“I believe everyone deserves a second chance,” Hernandez said.

Even if a homeless people are open to aid and willing to work to get housing subsidies, they may have to wait years before they can get assistance. Although there are several programs with lofty goals to end homelessness, the resources for permanent housing subsidies continue to dwindle as federal and local government budgets constrict.

Sometimes the homeless have to wait so long, they give up.

That's what happened to David Baysinger, a wheelchair-bound homeless man.

“Some people look at the glass half full. Some people look at it half empty. To me, it's just empty,” Baysinger said last week, under a covered bus stop, shrouded in trash bags to stay dry on a rainy day.

The 58-year-old has problems with his spine that make walking difficult. He's been homeless in Glendale off and on since 1988. Several years ago, before his disability, Ascencia was able to get him housed, but Baysinger lost his apartment after he didn't follow program rules.

Baysinger, who became homeless after losing his house to his ex-wife during divorce proceedings, has since become a constant figure near the Yoshinoya restaurant on Colorado Street in Glendale.

Baysinger will use Ascencia's showers, but he's refused multiple times to stay at the nonprofit's temporary shelter, even after he was robbed while he was sleeping and the thieves made off with $400 Baysinger received from Social Security. Baysinger believes women and children deserve the shelter more than he does.

“He tries to discourage me, but I just keep coming back,” Hernandez said.

Hernandez was once homeless, too. As a bipolar drug addict, he cycled in and out of jail until one day, when he was 39, a judge asked him: “Aren't you getting too old for this?”

That's when it clicked for the now 54-year-old. After attending an intensive court-mandated drug program, he went back to school for a degree in drug and alcohol counseling. He's been working at Ascencia for 10 years now, trying to help people who remind him of his former self.

The homeless in Glendale can be found near the Galleria, Central Park, Carr Park, in downtown and along the Los Angeles River path near Bette Davis Park in Los Angeles. One homeless man usually keeps his mattress on the river banks, but last week during the rainstorm, his mattress was whisked away by the rising water. 

There are about 320 homeless people in Glendale on any given night, according to figures released in March. Of the homeless population surveyed during the January 30 point-in-time count, 31% were either chronic substance abusers or mentally ill. 

Although some homeless people refuse Ascencia's help, Hernandez believes that's because of their addictions or mental illnesses, which shouldn't be impediments to a better life.

It's become harder to help the addicted population, he said, because the homeless must go through detox before getting into a residential program, but subsidized detox programs are hard to find.

Addicts aren't the only segment of the homeless population who have issues accepting help.

Kimberly Ellis, a homeless woman who often stays in Central Park, lost her job as a telephone operator last year. She tried to find other work, but to no avail. She was eventually evicted from her apartment. 

She first found out about Ascencia after staying at Glendale's emergency winter shelter at the National Guard Armory on Colorado Boulevard last year. She plans to go to the 80-bed shelter again this year, which is set to run Dec. 1 through March 1 at its new site — Ascencia's former outreach center at 437 Fernando Court. 

But she won't accept other help from the nonprofit, no matter how much outreach workers try.

“I was raised old school. I was raised that when you're down, you have to pick yourself up,” said Ellis, a sober 49-year-old diabetic.

She hasn't been successful. She looked for a job for months — handing out resumes with her email address because she doesn't have a phone — but she got no offers, she said.

She usually doesn't feel scared living on the streets because she has her boyfriend — another homeless man — to protect her. He was recently arrested on an old warrant for driving under the influence, though, leaving her to fend on her own since he went to jail.

“It's not easy for women out here,” she said. “I can't be out here much longer.”

Critics of the homeless system call it broken as government officials often create new restrictions on limited funding and, at the same time, many nonprofit programs don't work efficiently in sync. 

But Hernandez has a more positive outlook: While Ascencia officials can't help as many people as they'd like, they do house some.

A few days after Baysinger took shelter under a bus stop during the rain, he signed a lease for to a subsidized apartment thanks to Ascencia.

As for Hastings, who missed his appointment with a psychiatrist — he called Broadway the next day, apologized and said he overslept, Hernandez said. Ascencia officials are lining up another appointment for him.

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