It starts with a well-being check or good intentions to lend a helping hand. Building a trusting relationship follows, with the ultimate goal of establishing a friendship that will lead to providing support to life’s most vulnerable.
“I get to know them first so they are able to come to me and say, ‘Hey, I’m hungry or I’m scared out there, I’m ready to get housed,’ or ‘It’s cold, I need a blanket,’” explained Shannon Robledo, a lieutenant with the South Pasadena Police Department, always ready and willing to assist those without shelter over their head.
Robledo heads up the city’s yearly mission to count the number of homeless in town as part of the Los Angeles County tally. The most recent effort, conducted last February, was delayed two years after the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) said it was not safe for volunteers to gather the information amid the COVID-19 pandemic when stay-at-home orders were in place.
Following this year’s effort involving Robledo, a half dozen SPPD officers and a community member, the LAHSA announced recently that 28 individuals in South Pasadena are experiencing homelessness.
LAHSA officials say the count refers to the process of counting unhoused individuals residing in shelters or living on the street, in parks, cars, or other places not meant for human habitation.
“We’ve always been around 15 to 25,” explained Robledo, referring to South Pasadena’s homeless count. “When we went out this year, we saw a lot of new faces.”
Passionate in helping those living on the street, the lieutenant wants to assist in making the lives of the unhoused better, recognizing it isn’t easy for those without a home, saying: “Regardless of their economic status, whether or not they have a roof over their head, they are still our community members and need to be taken care of like everyone else.”
That passion moves Robledo to provide resources and information in a comfortable manner so the homeless know help is on the way. “Some people don’t know where and who to turn to,” he said. “I can imagine it’s pretty scary living on the street by yourself.”
It’s the “love for mankind,” noted the dedicated officer “in why I take the next step to help someone regardless of what they need. Someone helped me and my family at one point and I want to give back.”
Robledo joined the SPPD in 1990 as a police explorer and his career has flourished over the years moving up the ranks. “As I sat on the interview panel before being hired I was asked what I could offer the city,” he recalls. “I told them about my passion in wanting to help others and that I would give them 110 percent. I love the community I work for –everyone is included.”
Everyone to Robledo means those with or without a home will be treated the same. “If I’m at a restaurant and see someone outside who needs some food, I’m going to provide that for them. It’s not against the law to be unhoused, but if they’re committing a crime, like any citizen, they could wind up in jail. But we try to educate before we enforce. Everyone is part of the community, regardless if you are housed or unhoused. As officers, we’re public servants and our goal is to help people.”
Like his fellow SPPD officers, Robledo often provides those in need with some of life’s necessary staples – cold weather gear, granola bars, water, a list of local resources, care/hygiene kits, and blankets to bring some warmth from the chill of the night.
“Our goal is to let them know that we care and want to help them as much as we can,” he said, recognizing everyone counts, no matter where they live.