The recent discovery of a body of homeless man who died alone of natural causes at a Glendora bank turned the public’s attention to available community support services to the local homeless population.
While no permanent homeless shelters exist in the East San Gabriel Valley, community churches and Glendora law enforcement reach out to the local homeless with various support programs. However, with the homeless population growing throughout the San Gabriel Valley, some are pushing for more permanent shelter opportunities.
According to the 2011Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count Report, about 20 homeless people were found in Glendora.
The report also counted 3,918 homeless individuals in the San Gabriel Valley – up more than 600 since 2009.
Local churches and organizations have recognized the need to help the area’s homeless. Glenkirk and St. Dorothy’s Catholic Church take part with other neighboring churches in the annual Winter Shelter program, which provides food and overnight shelter for the homeless during the winter months.
This year’s Winter Shelter Program runs until March 15. For the rest of the year, until the next Winter Shelter program resumes, the homeless wander from one city to another,
Glendora, like most cities in the area, doesn’t allow homeless encampments. So many of the transients set up temporary encampments before moving on to another location.
Areas homeless often settle in places such as South Hills Park in Glendora and the flood control channels in Azusa.
Local homeless advocacy groups have tried to establish a permanent shelter in the East San Gabriel Valley, but the effort has been an unpopular one among local residents.
"What it really comes down to is that cities in this area don't really want a permanent shelter in their neighborhood," said Bob McKennon, director of the East San Gabriel Valley Coalition for the Homeless. "There's always the opposition – 'Not in my neighborhood.”
Still local organizations are doing what they can to assist the homeless community.
Glendora Police Chief Rob Castro said his department works closely with organizations such as the Shepherd’s Pantry to offer food and clothing for the homeless they encounter. The Empty Bowls fundraiser through Citrus College has also allowed Glendora PD to provide food vouchers and other assistance for the local homeless population. Services are also available to help the homeless obtain new Social Security cards.
Castro said officers are also undergoing training to better deal with and communicate with homeless individuals, most of whom are suffering from substance abuse or mental illness. Castro said Glendora Police will often refer these people to nearby mental health or rehabilitation facilities.
Still, most of the homeless officers encounter are chronically homeless, living a lifestyle many of them have chosen.
A homeless man, who spends his days near the Ralphs parking lot, said he preferred staying in Glendora because “people are nice.”
The man, who couldn’t remember his age and spoke under anonymity because he feared “the Feds will find me,” said he would frequent a permanent shelter if one were available, but he said he wouldn’t stay there long.
“I have to keep on moving,” he said.
“There are never enough resources to keep people off the streets,” said Castro. “We try to find ways to co-exist. There are two sides – one side want us to get the homeless out of the city, which we can’t do legally. Another side says we have to show compassion for these people, as long as they’re not violating the law.”