California Lutheran University's Student Newspaper Since 1961

The Echo

California Lutheran University's Student Newspaper Since 1961

The Echo

California Lutheran University's Student Newspaper Since 1961

The Echo

    City Council Puts Homelessness on Agenda

    “In Ventura County there are over 1,000 people who are sleeping in places not meant for human habitation, and nearly 16,000 who are at risk,” said Communications and Marketing Analyst Ashley Humes in an email interview on behalf of City Manager Andrew Powers.

    On March 2, Ventura County Director of Lutheran Social Services Denise Cortes held a community forum on homelessness in Ventura County. Lutheran Social Services is a nonprofit “meeting the needs of the poor, underserved and powerless regardless of race, creed or orientation,” according to its website.

    In this presentation, Cortes shared a few key findings that her nonprofit encounters repeatedly. Cortes said a large percentage of the homeless community in Ventura County are children who grew up in the foster system, individuals who have faced years of trauma and those who have turned to drug and alcohol abuse as a coping mechanism.

    Humes said the Thousand Oaks City Council has identified homelessness as a “priority issue.” Over the last three weeks, City Council meetings have been filled with discussion on homelessness and what action the city needs to take.

    On Feb. 20 during a City Council Meeting, Deputy City Manager Gary Rogers shared that one of City Council’s top priorities for 2017-2018 was the “coordination and support of a regional approach to homelessness.”

    Out of this discussion, a proposal for an Ad Hoc Homelessness Committee, led by Councilmember Claudia Bill-de la Peña and Mayor Pro Temp Rob McCoy, ensued. Last Tuesday, March 6, the City Council approved the committee.

    The Thousand Oaks Police Department wants to address the challenges of homelessness alongside community leaders. Sr. Deputy Director Juan Cordova continually encounters the homeless community. In collaboration with City Council, Cordova sat with focus groups who faced different homelessness situations and worked to create ideas on how to combat the epidemic.

    For the past year, Cordova has also been working with local nonprofits to connect with homeless people face to face.

    “I’ll go up to people and talk to them for a little bit, let them know that we’re not here for any enforcement, I’m here just to talk to them and see if there’s any ways we can have our outreach specialists have a chat with them. A lot of them are very receptive to see if there’s anything they can do to assist them,” Cordova said.

    Cordova said that his method of reaching the homeless individuals is persistence. He sees many of the same faces day to day and continually works to connect them with the resources available.

    “We’re doing our part. We’re doing the outreaches; we’re doing a lot of different things to try to better the community and better the situations of some of the homeless out there. But you still see certain people out there who are service resistant and don’t want to do anything to better themselves. It’s disheartening,” Cordova said.

    While work at a governmental level is crucial, much of the day-to-day continual work is being done by local nonprofits. One county-level program leading this battle is the Ventura County Continuum of Care. This group “makes policy recommendations and allocates HUD [Housing and Urban Development] funding to programs that effectively address homelessness,” said Director Tara Carruth in an email interview.

    Continuum of Care has focused on getting individuals off the streets and into sustainable housing. Carruth said many of the people the organization encounters are employed but cannot afford sustainable housing, or are disabled and on a social security income of $600-$800 a month.

    “The most cost effective solution is to provide housing but that takes funding, locations and political leadership,” Carruth said in an email interview.

    Continuum of Care has been working to bring awareness of the homeless community to local leaders. Carruth is confident the Thousand Oaks City Council is taking proper steps in the right direction to help combat this epidemic.

    “It is encouraging to see leaders take an interest in solutions to this very complex issue that impacts all of us. The need is great and we need to develop more solutions to move people off the streets,” Carruth said.

    The Thousand Oaks Acorn has received multiple statements from upset residents, one claiming that sleeping in public property should be made illegal in order to push the homeless people out of Thousand Oaks.

    Thousand Oaks resident and mother Desta Goehner said that she has never been fearful of homeless people in Thousand Oaks. Goehner said she has gathered knowledge from nonprofits like Lutheran Social Services, who have shared that many of the homeless people in Thousand Oaks were once children growing up in the area.

    “If I’m able to and if I can, I try to do things where they feel like people care for them and will respond to their needs. If that was me, I’d want people to respond and help me instead of having judgment and being fearful,” Goehner said.

    Cortes said that local nonprofit agencies focused on serving the homeless community are always looking for volunteers to serve and community members to guide homeless people to their services.

    Holy Trinity Lutheran Church serves the homeless community in a rotating shelter every Monday night and gladly accepts volunteers.

    Catherine Slabaugh