When he joined Union Station Homeless Services in Pasadena, it had one facility with a few dozen beds for men, 22 employees and a budget of less than $1 million. That was 1995. Now, Rabbi Marv Gross presides over five facilities, 93 employees and a budget of almost $8 million.
Gross, 69, is retiring after 21 years. He'll do some volunteer work, some consulting and maybe some sailing in a Cal-25, which he says is "an aging boat, but it sails well" — like him.
I sat down with Gross in the courtyard of the adult services center on Raymond Avenue to talk about his work.
How big was the homeless population in Pasadena 21 years ago?
The first homeless count was in 1992, and it was somewhat over 1,200 people, and it stayed around that level. And many of the years that I've been here, it's been a little bit more than a thousand, a little bit less. It peaked in 2008-09 following the recession, but since then it's been going down, and fortunately, with the homeless count that was completed in 2016, there were 530 homeless people identified in Pasadena, which is the lowest count on record.
Can you take some credit for that?
Well, I think Union Station can take some credit. We're working very closely with the city and other agencies. I think there is a determination to try to significantly reduce homelessness in Pasadena and part of that credit I know belongs to us.
But on the other hand is there any way of knowing whether the population just moved to Skid Row in downtown LA?
The population is somewhat transient, although over the years we've found that the majority of people who we serve at Union Station actually grew up in Pasadena, so we're a local agency that by and large serves local clients.
Why are you retiring?
I'm 69. I just think it's time for me to have another type of life.
Listen to the audio for much more of my conversation, including why Union Station Homeless Services — far from the train station in downtown L.A. — has that confusing name.
Gross' last day is June 30, but his name will live on at Union Station in the Marv Gross Fund for Families, set up to help homeless families pay housing, rent, utilities, moving expenses, furniture, and to get them education and counseling.