The 2022 Homeless Count revealed a leveling off in the number of people experiencing homelessness over the past three years. In Pasadena, housing affordability and availability is the root cause of homelessness. People experiencing homelessness are our neighbors, with growing disparity among the Black and Latinx communities. Since 2020, fewer people have fallen into homelessness for the first time.
Homelessness in Pasadena Continues to Level Off
On the night of the 2022 Homeless Count, 512 people were experiencing homelessness in Pasadena. While the exact number of people without homes fluctuates throughout the year, the count reveals a continued leveling off of the average number of people experiencing homelessness over the past three years.
The impact of the pandemic remains to be seen despite this leveling off, as critical tenant protections were still in effect at the time of the count due to the COVID-19 pandemic state of emergency. These protections include Pasadena’s local eviction moratorium, which prohibits landlords from evicting renters for non-payment of rent if they have been financially impacted by COVID-19.
Homelessness remains a regional and statewide crisis with unacceptably high numbers, even though the number of people experiencing homelessness in Pasadena has not grown.
Homelessness remains a regional and statewide crisis with unacceptably high numbers, even though the number of people experiencing homelessness in Pasadena has not grown. Despite record-level local and state investments to combat homelessness, the steady number of people without homes in Pasadena points to deeper causes of the current crisis, such as high housing costs, a lack of housing supply, institutional racism, and flawed systems.
Housing Affordability and Availability is the Root Cause of Homelessness
Narratives surrounding homelessness often focus on individual-level vulnerabilities such as mental health conditions, substance use, or poor decision-making. However, these narratives misdiagnose the root cause of homelessness and do not explain why so many people are being driven out of their homes at staggering rates across the nation.
Structural forces such as high housing costs, low vacancy rates, and wages that cannot keep up with rising rents drive high rates of homelessness in certain cities.
Shifting the lens from individual failings to structural drivers of homelessness provides insight into the regional variation of homelessness. In Homelessness is a Housing Problem, Gregg Colburn and Clayton Page Aldern use statistical models to demonstrate that structural forces such as high housing costs, low vacancy rates, and wages that cannot keep up with rising rents drive high rates of homelessness in certain cities.
In order to affect increased and lasting change, serious efforts must be made to confront and mitigate the systemic underlying root causes of homelessness. While our community has invested more heavily than ever in the homelessness response system, it continues to bear the challenges and failures of other existing systems. Structural forces such as high housing costs and low wages, market conditions, and housing availability are compounded by institutional racism, creating significant racial disparities among people who experience homelessness. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has further exacerbated these structural failures and highlights the need for safe and stable homes for our community’s most vulnerable neighbors.
The best way to help bring our neighbors home is to provide long-term, affordable housing as a building block for stabilization, recovery, and healing.
Our Unhoused Residents are our Neighbors
The number of people who lived in Pasadena prior to falling into homelessness is trending upward. Two in three (66%) people who were unsheltered on the night of the count reported living in Pasadena prior to their housing loss, up from 54% in 2020. Further, three in four (75%) people surveyed indicated they had not slept in any city other than Pasadena in the last week. On average, our unsheltered neighbors lived in Pasadena for 18 years before losing their homes, largely refuting the fallacy that people experiencing homelessness travel to the city from other areas or fall into homelessness after only living here a short while. Despite conventional beliefs, our unsheltered residents in Pasadena are, more often than not, our long-time neighbors who faced significant barriers to housing stability.
Racial & Ethnic Disparities Remain
Homelessness is the most visible manifestation of longstanding systemic racism and persistent inequity in the housing sector. People of color, particularly Black and Latinx, continue to be disproportionately represented among people experiencing homelessness in Pasadena and across the country.
The intersection between race and homelessness extends far beyond the impact of poverty. In Pasadena, 34% of our unhoused residents identify as Black or African American despite only representing 8% of Pasadena’s general population. While only 8% of all people in Pasadena identify as Black, 10% of all people living in poverty are Black.
Black people experiencing homelessness are more likely to indicate eviction as a precipitating event before falling into homelessness (18% vs. 12% for non-Black people), with the majority of those evictions occurring in Pasadena (63%). Further, Black people experiencing homelessness are more likely to have been in the foster care system than non-Black people (17% vs. 10%, respectively).
Similarly, in Pasadena, Hispanic and Latino people are experiencing homelessness at disproportionate rates and are one of the fastest-growing segments of our unhoused population. In 2022, Hispanic and Latino people comprised 44% of people experiencing homelessness compared to 37% in 2020. This growth has resulted in an over-representation of Hispanic and Latino people experiencing homelessness compared to their share of the total general population (33%).
Hispanic and Latino peoples experiencing homelessness are much more likely to be families with children. While less than one-third of all families with children identified as Hispanic or Latino in Pasadena in the 2015-2019 American Community Survey, 55% of all families living in poverty were Hispanic or Latino. By comparison, 80% of families experiencing homelessness identified as Hispanic or Latino, demonstrating an ethnic disparity that cannot be explained by poverty alone.
The legacy of institutional racism in the housing market coupled with the historical lack of investment in communities of color has and will continue to have lasting humanitarian consequences.
Fewer People Falling Into Homelessness for the First Time
While the rate of people experiencing chronic homelessness for a year or longer (53%) has remained relatively unchanged since 2016, fewer people reported experiencing homelessness for the first time in 2022 (9%) compared to 2020 (19%). This drop highlights the successes of COVID-related tenant protections and financial assistance programs that kept people in their homes during the pandemic. As the city's local eviction moratorium sunsets, the Housing Department will administer new and expanded eviction prevention resources to further prevent increases in homelessness.