Hometown Advocacy: Helping our Ventura Homeless Residents off the Streets

Where to begin?

The more we look into homelessness, the more we realize what a complicated issue it is.

What can Indivisible Ventura do, as a group, to help our Ventura homeless receive the assistance they need to get back on their feet and off the streets?

Can we take the knowledge we’ve gained by working on federal and state issues and bring it home?

How can we really help?

After meeting with advocates that have been working on homelessness – some for as long as 25 years – in our city and county, by attending many of the recent panel discussions, following the leads the experts have pointed us toward and, with expert help, identifying how our Calls to Action can be most effective – we’ve come up with a plan.

But first, there are things you need to know:

Dispelling the myths, finding solutions

One of the first incredible resources we found is the 2018 State of Homelessness in Ventura County. This is an annual, easy-to-read overview put together by the Ventura County Continuum of Care Alliance.

Read it. It’s enlightening.

Next, we were pointed to this video that, honestly, floored us. In her own words, this brave woman gives a first-hand account of what life is like living on the streets of Ventura. A former school teacher and homeowner who, through a series of sad events, found herself homeless and recounts her struggle to find a home and the obstacles in her way her journey (“As a homeless person, just your existence is illegal in the city of Ventura”) :

Here’s a recent article that should be read, as well: LIFE CUT SHORT: Local homeless services still lacking in helping those in need.

Here are some quick facts to dispel some of the myths surrounding our homeless residents:

The panel discussions we attended have included our Chief of Police, members of our City Council, homeless advocates and activists, county mental health experts, organizations that aid the homeless, and business owners. Here’s what we’ve learned

Over 90% of our homeless are “homegrown.” THEY ARE OURS. There is no “busing in the homeless” from other communities.

-There are people on the streets right now that lost their homes in the Thomas Fire.

In order to reside in a studio apartment, while working on minimum wage, a person must work a minimum of 82 hours a week. Once someone loses their apartment, saving the approximately $2500 to become rehomed is daunting. In addition, rental vacancy is at or below 3%, with a serious lack of very affordable and extremely affordable housing.

One of the fastest growing demographics are people over 65. Our social safety net does not cover the high housing costs in Ventura County. Rent for a studio apartment averages $1,109 countywide. Minimum social security monthly allotment is $889 a month, making the affordable rent for people in these circumstances $267.

– People want help. There simply are not enough “four walls and a roof” here. Of those lucky to receive help 95% remain homed after six months.
housing
From 2018 State of Homelessness in Ventura County

At least 90% of our unhomed have experienced trauma.

25% of our homeless brothers and sisters have serious mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia. There are too few resources for those in need of shelter that can surround them with the services necessary to insure proper treatment. Only those under 22-years old and over 65 receive 100% mental health benefits through Medicaid or Medicare.

An astonishing 4,400 students in our Ventura County schools are identified as without homes.

-For those with substance abuse problems, the cycle of jail and emergency room hospitalization is the norm. Even if we could look at this issue without empathy, the monetary drain is staggering. Getting roofs over heads and surrounding people with services (by estimates of experts with whom we’ve listened) is either cheaper or cost neutral. The HUGE upside? Getting a hand up and off the streets allows those with substance issues to breathe and begin to see that there is hope and help available.

Urgent and ongoing solutions:

Step one is getting a 24-hour, year-round shelter in place with the goal of transitioning folks into permanent housing. This would enable our homeless residents to be surrounded with services and given the chance to gain a foothold in their lives. A year-round shelter is supported by our police, businesses, and advocates alike.

The City Council allotted $300,000 in Measure O funds last year, and the ask is for an additional $300,000 for 2018. Zoning for a shelter was put into place last year and advocates are asking for a site to be chosen by the end of 2018.

This is HUGE and we sent out a Call to Action so you can be a part of this process.

Watch for Calls to Action for these as well:

Very affordable and extremely affordable housing MUST be built. There is legislation in the pipeline on the State level for funding and we’ll be calling!

-State funding. Additional state funding for may be available to Ventura by designating the city as having a homelessness crisis. 

-Legislation pertaining to those with mental health issues. The creation of more housing with mental health in mind. Bridge the over 22/under 65 Medicare/Medicaid gap for 100% coverage for mental health.

Housing First. This concept has been implemented in many cities and it works! Read up on it here.

-Low barrier entry housing for those with substance issues.

-Housing for those who need to bring their support animals along. This is a barrier that keeps many from gaining services.

Local Services

Ventura Salvation Army

The Turning Point Foundation

Ventura Homeless Prevention

Project Understanding

The Ventura County Rescue Mission

Society of St. Vincent de Paul