He wears a badge for the South Pasadena Police Department, but what he does for those in need goes far beyond a job in law enforcement.
Sgt. Shannon Robledo, who likes to say, “We’re all just a paycheck away from being homeless, was at the side of his friend, Sherri Wood, as she addressed the City Council last Wednesday night, telling her story, a story of despair about living the life of a homeless person in South Pasadena.
As council members addressed the homelessness issue during their regularly scheduled meeting, Robledo wanted the 5-member panel to meet someone facing the challenges without a home. They also heard that the sergeant was close to helping the woman find permanent housing. Wood, who once sought shelter wherever she could in the city, has been residing temporarily at Union Station Homeless Services in Pasadena since December.
“I can’t even express it, they made me feel important, like I mattered,” said Wood, when asked how she felt after council members showed so much compassion for her and approved a plan 5-0 to help prevent and combat homelessness through Los Angeles County grants.
Explaining how she landed on the street, Wood said she was forced to move from her apartment after the landlord announced the property was going to be sold. “We all got notices and I just ran out of time in finding a place,” she explained. “I had to walk out the door to nowhere.”
She became homeless a year and a half ago.
Recognizing her difficult situation was Robledo, who has brought her blankets, food, toiletries but mostly compassion since Wood began facing hard times. “He’s a remarkable officer,” she said. “He shows kindness and that’s what makes a difference. That’s what makes you want to get back up and keep fighting.”
Holding back tears, wiping her eyes, Wood acknowledged, “He saved my life.”
Robledo said he’s proud of Wood for “escaping homelessness. She’s doing it on her own power. She now knows where to get the help and is seeking it. I’ve given her the support and resources she needs to get back on her feet.”
With his guidance, Robledo said Wood has the information to call for food, medical assistance, and housing, and realizes there are a lot of people willing to lend a helping hand. The officer would like nothing more for Wood to get a permanent roof over her head.
In February, the City of South Pasadena accepted a $30,000 grant from the County of Los Angeles and entered into a memorandum of understanding with the San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments (SGVCOG) to hire LeSar Development Consultants (LDC) to prepare a draft plan to combat homelessness.
With its approval by the council, it allows the city to apply for Measure H grant funding scheduled for released in August. Measure H was passed by Los Angeles County voters to raise an estimated $355 million a year for 10 years to help the homeless transition into affordable housing units.
The LDC planning document was initially brought to the council’s attention during its regularly scheduled meeting on June 6, but action to approve the homelessness plan was postponed. Councilmember Diana Mahmud raised concerns, saying there were not enough specifics in helping the homeless in South Pasadena. Council members requested a revised plan that was given the green light this week.
The City of South Pasadena Plan to Prevent and Combat Homelessness, covering three years from 2018-2021, is a roadmap in developing strategies within the city while also working with regional organizations to help individuals find the resources needed to get off the street.
“The biggest thing we need to do right now is conduct outreach,” explained Winnie Fong of LDC. “There are a lot of service providers out there and we need to get everyone communicating with each other and make sure we share success stories like Sherri’s.”
Wong said the revised plan provides more specific details, with an extra layer to identify individuals who will serve on a homelessness task force, along with the importance of developing affordable housing, and to seek increased security along the Gold Line, a major push from South Pasadena Councilmember Michael Cacciotti, who continues to stress that those without homes ride Metro light rail trains day and night. Safety for passengers is of foremost concern, he stressed.
In addition, the plan approved by the council calls for strategies to reduce homeless encampments and the need to provide those with challenges job opportunities and occupational training programs.
Last count, when the city was authorized to provide its homeless numbers to county officials, Robledo said there were nine in South Pasadena.
“We just need to get the homeless into a system and provide the help and care they need,” Fong explained outside the council Chambers Wednesday night. “That’s the key. We want to get them into safe housing. They will benefit greatly with other services once we get them into a home.”
LDC, noted Fong, will come up with best practices to help the homeless population in South Pasadena, ultimately getting them off the street, into housing and landing jobs. “We want to make sure they are self-sufficient,” she said. “We’re hoping to find them affordable housing.”