PASADENA, Calif. — A bad weather shelter for the unhoused typically opens in the city of Pasadena until March, when there’s a forecast of 40 degrees or below and/or a 40% chance of rain.
But this year, it won’t be open due to Covid-19. An organization called Pasadena For All is calling for the city to find another option for some of its most vulnerable residents.
After 20 years of living on the streets, Stephanie Bruno finally has a roof over her head. As she waits for the senior care center to pick her up, she reflects on the days she slept on crowded corners just like the one she waited on.
“I just slept on a wet little mattress that I found. By myself and I was shivering so bad that I just shivered myself to sleep. It was really horrible," Bruno said.
Bruno says winters in Pasadena can become unbearable. She’s disheartened to hear that the city’s annual bad weather shelter won’t be open this season because she knows how crucial it is for people who don’t have a warm place to stay at night.
“It was very important because first of all they feed you a hot meal. There’s showers and beds, the little cots or whatever. The lights go off and you gotta go to sleep, and that’s a great thing," Bruno explained.
It’s why Sonja Berndt is fighting for another option for the unhoused. She’s a member of Pasadena For All, a grassroots organization that provides direct outreach to those without homes.
“Pasadena needs to be able to provide for its most vulnerable residents," Berndt said.
Berndt says the city has proposed vouchers for motel rooms in place of the shelter, but her concern is that there aren’t enough vouchers for all of the people who need them, especially in a year where the pandemic has left many more residents unable to pay rent.
“We have well over 300 every night that are unsheltered," Berndt said. "That’s the estimate from the January homeless count and generally the conjugate shelter would’ve generally had 140 beds so again, we want the city to provide the vouchers to those who request them.”
The annual bad weather shelter typically open at the Pasadena Covenant Church won’t be operating this year because of safety concerns, staffing and location issues stemming from Covid-19.
Berndt says she’s concerned because the nearest cold weather shelter sites are in La Puente and Hacienda Heights, at least 11 miles away.
“At those, you’re competing with persons that are unsheltered from other cities as well," she said.
Though it’s no longer her reality, Bruno says she hopes the city will consider expanding the resources for those in most need.
“I don’t understand, there should be more," she said.
Concerned for the people she once slept next to, knowing it’s a cold January ahead.