Christine Mirasy-Glasco, executive director of Upward Bound House in Santa Monica, has dedicated herself to working toward better conditions for the homeless. PHOTO by Leroy Hamilton

Upward Bound House helps others find stability and success

By Nicole Borgenicht

Over the past two decades, executive director Christine Mirasy-Glasco of Upward Bound House in Santa Monica has dedicated herself to working toward better conditions for the homeless. First as the head of grants and programs at Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA), then as CEO at Beyond Shelter, one of the pioneers of Housing First, and later as executive director at People Assisting the Homeless (PATH) before joining Upward Bound House.

Mirasy-Glasco has a bachelor’s degree in international law, a master’s degree in international and European law, as well as pre-doctorate degree in international economic law. Her educational background was entirely for the purpose of working on human rights.

“My passion has always been homeless families and families in general,” Mirasy-Glasco said.

Families with young children are an unseen part of the homeless population. The common process of kids helping provide for their family while homeless often results in them becoming homeless as adults, thus repeating the cycle.

“We need intervention to change kids’ lives before the issues arise or the kids may be taken into the welfare system where there may be neglect in foster care,” Mirasy-Glasco said.

Upward Bound House is a transitional housing facility where families live for six to nine months while getting help in all aspects of family housing. Short-term goals are getting the kids enrolled in school, acquiring documentation for the kids, setting up an adult budget for the family, reviewing employment goals, and helping with resumes and applications. Families also receive assistance for interviews including clothing, career development and income.

“Parents are often 18 to 24 years old with a minor child in their family,” Mirasy-Glasco said.

Upward Bound House has a case manager, employment specialist, housing specialist and clinical manager for emotional support and therapy on staff. There is also a community space for kids, a pantry kitchen for food and household products, as well as an urban farm that brings produce to the pantry and provides an educational “Wellness Program.”

There’s an entire network of people and organizations involved that prepare the path to Upward Bound House and other facilities. It begins with outreach, a Coordinated Entry System (CES) that integrates many resources. CES has social workers, case managers, housing navigators and referrals for families.

“Organizations in LA County are a front door for homeless families to get into the shelter system or homeless service system,” Mirasy-Glasco said.

Another way families can find housing is by going to a Los Angeles Housing Department. Each city has a community housing department within LA County. Alternatively, families may also dial 211, which is a social service referral system.

Nonetheless, CES refers most clients that enter Upward Bound House. CES also completes a full assessment on the immediate needs of each family before accepting them into the program. The evaluation covers their history leading to homelessness, demographics, employment, income and housing history, background check and family needs.

“Upward Bound House creates a housing and services plan to get the family back up on their feet,” Mirasy-Glasco said.

Once short-term goals are achieved, the staff arranges all levels of assistance and training. With the full entry forms, the staff case manager readdresses some of the reasons for homelessness. The financial wellness staff member assists with employment services while the staff housing specialist helps families find a home and assists with the application process. Then financial support is arranged.
According to Mirasy-Glasco, “the first 90 days is the most critical.”

Families move with security and utility deposits paid, and two to four months of rental assistance that decreases over that period of time. A wellness program is included for emotional, health and food, and nutrition support. An after care schedule is set up to help families with housing stabilization.

“After Care is up to two years, helping with each smaller crisis so that it doesn’t escalate into loss of housing and homelessness again,” Mirasy-Glasco said.

After Care also maintains a focus on financial wellness services, jobs and saving with incentive by matching up to $1000.

The success rate has been phenomenal. Each year Upward Bound House has 400 families and 87 percent go into permanent housing; before COVID-19 it was 96 percent.

“The pandemic exacerbated the problem, and in the aftermath with the housing moratorium ending soon, it will increase,” Mirasy-Glasco said.

She noted that the top three challenges are lack of awareness, lack of resources and lack of affordable housing. There are also lengthy waiting lists for affordable housing.

“Lack of awareness of homeless families is because people don’t see them,” Mirasy-Glasco said. “Families hide in fear of losing their kids and from judgmental people. Out of sight, out of mind relates to lack of resources such as financial support and organizations for children also dealing with the epidemic, social and emotional health, life skills and no access to computer training, classes or art and music.”

When asked about her favorite aspects of Upward Bound House, Mirasy-Glaso said, “Seeing a family come into the program with no hope and then seeing them blossom in the program, move into their own place where children come to life being children again. At the playground, just kids, no homeless feeling. They feel emotionally and physically safe, mentally safe and cared for.”

Upward Bound House
1104 Washington Ave., Santa Monica
(310) 458-7779