UPDATE: January 5
Continuing the efforts post-holiday season, BLM cofounder, Fahren James says that over 70 items were successfully purchased from recent donations. This included hoodies, zip-ups, and winter jackets.
Other items she says are always in need include reading glasses, shoes, gloves and storage spaces for some of the homeless’ possessions. “They are always afraid of losing their belongings with leaving them behind,” says James, who explained the social issues they face when having to constantly transport all of their belongings, noting that it makes it more obvious they are homeless, therefore making it more likely that businesses won’t accept them in.
Additionally James says the group plans on providing lunches on Mondays in Garfield Park moving forward.
If you’d like to make a contribution or volunteer, you can reach out to either Anne Bagasao at:
or Black Lives Matter South Pasadena:
Original Publication: January 2, 2020
It may be easy to forget about the less fortunate, especially as struggle is more commonplace than ever. But in some cases, like that of Black Lives Matter South Pasadena, it’s a priority to provide for the resident homeless population.
Over the holidays, donation drives were held in order to distribute necessities to a largely overlooked, but very real issue in South Pasadena. The effort was in coalition with fellow advocacy and social justice groups who had lent their support in the call for societal egalitarianism and justice reform last summer, Care First So Pas, the Anti-Racism Committee (ARC), and the South Pasadena Tenants Union (SPTU).
“We want to show that we are more than just a group that that’s protesting on the streets, [that] we’re also giving back to our communities”, BLM South Pasadena cofounder Fahren James told the South Pasadenan News, “[it’s] making sure that everybody is included in our movement, that no people are left behind.”
Both on Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Eve, items such as warm blankets, clothes, hand warmers, jackets, sleeping bags, tents, waters and many more amenities in abundance were given at two locations; the library park on El Centro and in the Arroyo Seco.
Not to be deterred by inclement weather, many volunteers climbed steep banks and took the leap over a rushing channel to reach an elaborate encampment composed of tarps, tents, and kennels to set up a distribution center.
Dozens of handcrafted, hot meals were also ordered, packaged, and handed out to those in need. The meals, provided by Lost Parrot Cafe on Thanksgiving and San Marino Cafe on Christmas, were purchased at a reduced cost, with the remaining balance covered by the monetary donations from various community members. Desserts were donated by Cookie Chaos. In addition, over 36 gift bags were given on Chistmas Eve. Leftover supplies and meals were taken to encampments in El Sereno.
Boxes of PPP which included masks, gloves, and sanitizer were also provided with many of the donations being from a number of sources ranging from cash, Venmo transactions, and purchases through Amazon and Target wishlists.
Manasa Basil, one of the 30-or-so people that came to receive the care packages, said he and his friends — some of whom came from as far as Monrovia — were notified by Holy Family Church of the event. “I’m very thankful for what I got,” he told the South Pasadenan, “(I) thank the almighty for having me here, breathing the air with my homeless family over here,” while also profusely thanking the community for thinking about the homeless.
Anne Bagasao, representing SPTU, assisted in requesting donations for much-needed necessities via social media, which they attribute much of the campaign’s success to. Crediting ally Ella Hashugen as the originator of the idea to do a homeless giveaway on Thanksgiving. Bagasao cited the first endeavor as a success, enough so to do the same on Christmas Eve. “South Pas really, really stepped up,” she beamed, saying other local groups like the D.U.D.E.S and city officials like former Councilmember Dr. Richard Schneider all made contributions.
According to Bagasao, when contacted, the City of South Pasadena informed the group that meals were not formally provided by any city service on Thanksgiving or Christmas, making the incentive to assemble exponentially crucial.
“I don’t feel like there is enough (help provided),” BLM So Pas cofounder, London Lang said. While in the past, the police department had organized outreach with the distribution of simple care packages and participation in the annual homeless count, Lang — whose sentiment is echoed by others — feels that the outreach should “be handled by professionals. (That way), we as a community can help the un-housed feel more safe around us.”
SPTU cofounder, John Srebalus, agrees with Lang, saying he thinks “a good effort” is being made by Sgt. Shannon Robledo. “He’s been a really great outreach point person, (but) we don’t believe that homeless outreach should be under the police department’s direction. So we would, of course, like to see more resources and outreach workers who don’t carry the added intimidation and use of force baggage that police officers do.”
Simply put, however — and with political dynamics aside — everyone agrees that the primary mission is “(just) to put some smiles on people’s faces,” said Lang.
“We really wanted people to be able to open a proper Christmas gift,” emphasizes Bagasao.
“This isn’t about sending a message,” added Srebalus. “It’s just about bringing a little holiday joy to some people who don’t have the same access to (it) while, as you know, a lot of residents do. So it’s just about being a good neighbor to these people.”
Orchestrating the whole operation takes communication through group texts, e-mail threads, and google sheets, while delegating roles and coordinating essential timing. The outreach, packaging, and ultimate distribution all require incredible dedication from volunteers.
“It’s extremely cold here at night, you know, people need things. And these are things that we don’t go to bed thinking about. We don’t go to bed thinking about the people that are on the streets who are freezing, and that are really going through a hard time,” says James, “You know, we’re all going through things as well, but I think it is really imperative, even within our own struggles, to give back to the community.”
The efforts don’t stop at the holidays. Well aware that with an ever-encroaching housing crisis, plummeting temperatures, and more forecasted financial crises, the need for humanitarianism will always be in demand.
Bagasao says, “We’re trying to keep people in their homes with Care First and the Tenants Union by fighting for tenants rights,” an ongoing issue she, along with Srebalus, have constantly entreated with City Council not to ignore for well over a year. “We’re taking care of those who don’t have a home and then we’re looking to work towards making sure that South Pasadena does their part towards the housing crisis, and builds as much affordable housing as possible.”
“We’re the richest country in the world. I think politics are getting in the way. I think nobody should be homeless in this country,” reflects Basil, while chatting and eating with his friends and proclaimed family on the steps of the library’s Community Room.
The allied groups hope to continue to provide meals to the needy and are still requesting donations for things like winter jackets, which can make a simple yet life-saving difference. Other necessities include toothpaste, deodorant, and other toiletries.
Between the two donation drives, James was pleased with the amount of community involvement. “The response has been really great. We got a lot of last minute donations in thanks in huge part to Anne for doing the due diligence to get the word out. We were able to put these gift bags together and get everything turned around in a matter of days. We could not have done it without her and all the support of the folks that pitched in and donated and contributed to this effort!”
News photographer Esteban Lopez contributed to this story