By Joshua Bay
In an attempt to better understand community concerns, the city of San Dimas is reaching out to residents and asking for their suggestions.
“It’s important that we bring in the public’s input and give them an opportunity to convey what their concerns are and the kinds of things they want us to look at as solutions,” said City Manager Chris Constantin. “That way we can fully consider them and ensure that the public has a voice in improving our community.”
In a May 13 public meeting, residents were given the opportunity to share their concerns with city council and city staff.
Cyndia Williams, San Dimas resident and owner of Old Towne Antiques, shared her concerns about homelessness.
“I shouldn’t have to go to the Dollar Tree and have someone sleeping and living in front,” Williams said during the meeting. “I realize COVID-19 has caused major problems, and I understand that. The problem is the people need to want the help, and unfortunately a large percentage of the people that we have don’t want the help that’s available.”
Councilmember Denis Bertone was surprised more residents were not concerned about homelessness.
“I was very surprised that more people didn’t talk about homelessness. I thought more people would be concerned about that,” Bertone said.
Bertone said a lot of people wrote in with concerns about permanent housing for homeless individuals prior to the meeting.
“People don’t want permanent homeless housing in San Dimas. They’re afraid it’s going to go in their neighborhood, and they think that will affect their quality of life,” Bertone said.
According to San Dimas Sheriff’s Station Sergeant Robert Long, there are an estimated seven to 13 individuals experiencing homelessness who stay in the San Dimas area.
“Although the homeless population in San Dimas is not as high in volume as other cities, we have seen an increase in our homeless population,” Long said.
Bertone agreed. “San Dimas has much less homelessness than most cities, but still it’s increasing in San Dimas,” he said.
Long explained that the sheriff’s station has a community action team that actively conducts homelessness outreach.
“Captain [Walid Ashrafnia] and the community action team partners with Union Station Homeless Services on a monthly, where we go out physically with them to talk to some of the homeless folks,” Long said. “We and the deputies at the station actually have referral cards to Union Station personnel who will then follow up with them.”
During the meeting, Ann Garcia, senior administrative analyst for the city of San Dimas housing division, presented information about the city’s Homelessness Prevention and Diversion Program created through the San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments’ Measure H funding.
Measure H is an initiative approved by Los Angeles County voters in March 2017 to prevent and combat homelessness.
Garcia said that this will help residents impacted by COVID-19 with rental assistance, past due utility bills and groceries.
Garcia also explained how the city is making an effort to address homelessness through five action items:
- Providing ongoing education to city staff and residents on the homeless population in San Dimas, which includes their connection to their respective families and the challenges associated with reunification.
- Ensuring all people experiencing homelessness in San Dimas are registered into the Regional Coordinated Entry System, an evidence-based program that connects people experiencing homelessness to housing programs.
- Expanding and improving immediate housing solutions, such as bridge housing or emergency shelters in conjunction with hotel/motel voucher programs.
- Expanding opportunities for employment and workforce development.
- Exploring options for preserving existing affordable housing.
During the meeting, Constantin announced the creation of a “quality of life” task force to be led by Community Development Director Henry Noh.
Constantin said the task force will include staff, residents, business interests, faith-based communities, and nonprofits “to ensure that as we’re discussing a variety of matters, they’re properly vetted by folks that would be impacted in a variety of sectors.”
Participants will be selected by the city manager and the community development director.
“After formulating the task force, and maybe even a little sooner, we’ll be getting out into the community and holding town halls to allow members from all over the community to convey their concerns about quality of life,” Constantin said.
Bertone explained there is a need to hear residents’ concerns so the city can allocate funds for future projects and programs.
“What the city is doing is making an attempt to do outreach to the community and see what their concerns are,” Bertone said. “And, of course, a lot of those concerns are probably affected by the budget, so before we finalize it we want to know what the people want.”
Dave Milbrandt, San Dimas resident and a San Dimas High School teacher, shared his excitement about the creation of a task force.
“I’d love to be a part of that, and I know others would love to as well,” Milbrandt said during the meeting. “I’ve worked really well with the city, and I want to make sure that my experience is not just my experience but the community’s experience.”
Bertone said most residents have been “quite positive” about San Dimas. “Even when they had a complaint, they still said they loved living there,” Bertone said.
Bertone, Mayor Emmett Badar, Councilmember John Ebiner and Councilmember Eric Weber as well as several city staff members and members of the public were present at the May 13 meeting.
Disclaimer: Isabel Ebiner, managing editor for the San Dimas Community Post and daughter-in-law of Councilmember John Ebiner, edited this story for AP Style.