The Pasadena Outreach Response Team (PORT) has been awarded a federal grant of $900,000 from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) through Congressional Directive Spending allocated by Congressmember Judy Chu. PORT is a coalition of the Pasadena Public Health and Fire Departments, Union Station Homeless Services, and Huntington Health, which provides links to housing opportunities for those experiencing chronic homelessness, severe mental illness, substance use disorders, physical disabilities, and complex chronic health conditions.
According to Mayor Victor M. Gordo, "PORT has been instrumental in reducing barriers to care for our unhoused population." The funds will support operations, field-based outreach, and resources to link participants to housing, medical care, and mental health and substance abuse services. Manuel Carmona, acting public health director, believes that "addressing homelessness is a public health priority," and emphasizes that the preservation of human dignity is key to building trust between PORT and the people they serve.
PORT has used a street-based approach since 2018, establishing relationships with participants that build trust over time and enable access to necessary services. With support from the Pasadena Police Department, PORT added a second team in 2021 and has been able to respond to over 550 emergency 911 dispatch calls regarding homelessness, reducing the need for law enforcement intervention. The PORT team comprises a case manager (social worker), public health nurse, firefighter, and outreach worker.
Since its creation, PORT has provided extensive support to people experiencing homelessness in Pasadena. Over 1500 individuals have been connected through their programs, 235 participants have enrolled in public health programs, 51 seniors and transitional-age youth have been supported in transitioning to subsidized low-income or shared housing, and 249 clinical appointments have been scheduled and facilitated.
According to Fire Chief Chad Augustin, "The PORT model highlights the power of collaboration." The grant will provide them with the funds required to continue making a difference in the lives of those most in need.