Ten-year plan to end homelessness

Ventura Corps receives grant to meet the needs of county’s homeless people.

by Kathy Lovin and Buffy Lincoln –

In a 4-to-1 decision at their April 2010 council meeting, the county supervisors of Ventura, Calif., voted to commit $3.1 million to organizations working to curb chronic homelessness. The Salvation Army’s Ventura, Calif., corps is one of the benefactors of the grant.

The decision followed a resolution the county made three years ago to join hundreds of cities and counties across the U.S. in developing a plan that would offer a solution to the growing numbers of people residing on the streets.

“The county will match two to one. So the county will give two dollars for every one dollar raised from a private entity or city municipality,” Captain Bill Finley, Ventura corps officer, said.

The 10-year project is the brainchild of Philip Mangano, director of the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness during the Bush presidency. Statistics are beginning to validate his theory.

Based on the proposal, the government would provide housing and supportive services to the chronically homeless, with the belief that these actions are more humane and less expensive than paying for emergency medical bills, incarcerations, court expenses and detoxification programs.

Who would benefit?
People at risk would gain a community resource that helps them avoid homelessness and connects them to additional resources. They would also receive ongoing follow-up.

Other service providers would profit by having a centralized set of agencies all focused on one issue, thereby streamlining referrals for aid and other resources.

The community would benefit from a local resource for homeless prevention that allows them to become involved in the program, thus establishing a sense of ownership.

Longstanding need
According to Finley, no year-round transitional facilities operate anywhere in the Ventura area—in fact, there are neither transitional nor year-round sites for men at all. The corps is aggressively exploring its options on how to leverage the funds it receives to build such a shelter.

Denver success
Kathy Lovin, public affairs and communications manager for The Salvation Army Western Territory, reported that the city of Denver was an early convert to Mangano’s plan. Their program—called Denver’s Road Home—cost approximately $10,000 per person per year. This is about one-third the cost to maintain that same person living on the street. To date, Denver has witnessed a 36 percent decrease in their number of chronically homeless people and an 11 percent drop in homelessness overall.

Previously derailed, the 10-year plan is now back on track for Ventura County. Some of the money will match donations and the rest will support detoxification programs and establish a housing fund.

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