Santa Paula Times

Council learns although homelessness is declining, help still needed

March 22, 2013
Santa Paula City Council

A representative of the Ventura County Homeless & Housing Coalition as well as an area homeless advocate and activist told the City Council at the March 18 meeting that although numbers show that the number of those without a home of their own is declining, help is still needed.

Dan Hardy of the VCH&HC and Kay Wilson-Bolton of the SPIRIT of Santa Paula updated the council on homeless issues at the March 18 meeting. The latter also noted that the weekly Many Meals program has served more than 92,000 meals over a five-year period.

Hardy said the council will be asked to adopt the updated 10-year-plan to end homelessness, an issue that has been approached on a local and regional basis. In the most recently released records Santa Paula had a count of 60 homeless people, “Good news,” said Hardy, as “what we are doing is working.” Bad news is that the number of the chronically homeless is twice the national average. 

Santa Paula has also created affordable housing, including those that cater to the homeless and mentally ill. Harvard Place Apartments, Courtyard at Harvard, Casa Bella on Main Street, The Orchards, Rodney Fernandez Gardens and Vista Hermosa - most created since 2007 - are area complexes that house the very-low income, those at the greatest risk of homelessness, including seniors on fixed incomes.

Wilson-Bolton said many of the efforts toward tackling the homeless issue started five years ago when an area homeless man was found “dead in one of our churches.” SPIRIT of Santa Paula has been involved on many levels with the homeless, including an annual winter shelter that Wilson-Bolton said was not opened last year, as “We felt we can do a better job one on one” to help those without a home find targeted services and opportunities.

Wilson-Bolton said it is expected that the number of homeless documented in the annual count conducted in January will reflect the continued decrease as well as local efforts to combat the issue. Richard’s House, a single-family home given to SPIRIT by Wells Fargo Bank, has provided temporary housing for 50 people until they secure permanent quarters.

The Many Meals project - which provides dinner once a week - has proved to be “a little lifeline” for those on the verge of homelessness whose free meals can save the funds needed to pay the mortgage or rent. Many Meals, noted Wilson-Bolton, has served more than 92,000 meals over the past five years.

The meals program is located at First Presbyterian Church, while the hall of the First Christian Church serves as a drop-in center for the homeless. Wilson-Bolton said there is a staffer at the facility, a homeless advocate who “works with them one-on-one” to identify and help obtain social services the homeless client is entitled to.

A new program is mentoring parolees, and with the approval of the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department pastors are able to visit prisoners in jail to help start the transitioning process. Such programs will make the community safer and, noted Wilson-Bolton, housing will help make the community happier.

There are many success stories, including helping someone who had been hospitalized to find a place to stay, just one example of the good work that Wilson-Bolton said is accomplished under the radar of public knowledge.

Hardy outlined various housing projects in other cities and detailed best practices for helping the homeless, from providing permanent supportive housing to preventative resources. 

Councilman Bob Gonzales said he appreciates the efforts on behalf of the homeless including Many Meals. “I know they feed a lot of people that otherwise would go without,” he noted.

For more information on the Ventura County Homeless & Housing Coalition or to obtain the 10-Year Plan as well as annual homeless reports visit the website: