Will COVID Worsen Homelessness in Glendale?

The number of homeless in the city had fallen before the pandemic’s peak

While homelessness is somewhat less severe in Glendale than as measured in the adjacent city of Los Angeles, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has not been fully calculated, a Glendale councilman says.

“Glendale conducted a homeless count in 2019 during which 243 persons were counted. A comparison of the past two counts, 2019 and 2020, found 74 fewer persons in 2020, a decrease of 30%,” Councilman Ardashes Kassakhian said in a recent interview.

In Los Angeles, meanwhile, the 2020 Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count showed 41,290 people experiencing homelessness, a 16.1% jump over the prior year.

However, Kassakhian stated, “Despite this decrease, it is still unclear whether we will have an increase in the number of homeless due to the current COVID-19 pandemic.” 

In Glendale, homelessness has varying causes, but the loss of employment has always been one of the primary contributors. That’s why there is concern that homelessness may increase as the pandemic harms the local economy.

 The boundaries of homelessness between Glendale and Los Angeles are unclear. If someone is homeless in L.A., but lives close to the city limits of Glendale, that person could impact Glendale;  the person may even be a former Glendale resident. 

“The homeless crisis doesn’t know geographic boundaries. I believe nonprofits working with cities in tandem are the key to addressing this issue, along with identifying places where the homeless can stay while resources are allocated to provide them with more permanent housing,” Kassakhian said. 

Frequent handwashing and sanitizing is an important defense against coronavirus, but such hygiene often is more difficult for the homeless, making them more susceptible to infection, he noted. 

Vaccinations are another challenge. According to Kassakhian, “The city is providing help to those who are in need, and our Fire Department is working on trying to track down the homeless population and trying to vaccinate them.” He explained that some people change locations after the initial vaccination, making it more challenging for the Fire Department to determine who only needs a second shot.

He said that homeless people need to cooperate with the organizations serving them because of the challenge involved with administering transients with a double vaccine dose. Homeless shelters and nonprofits need more of the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine to be able to more efficiently vaccinate people who are homeless, he said.

While homelessness in Glendale is not as pervasive as in many communities,  the city could do more to support homeless people during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Finally, Kassakhian stated, “I want to add that everyone in our homeless shelter, which is run by [the homeless-services organization] Ascencia, has already received vaccines, thanks to the work of our Fire Department.” 

Reona Iwamoto can be reached at [email protected]