Homeless shelter for at-risk
Thanks to state and federal funding, Ventura County’s elderly and disabled homeless are being housed during the COVID-19 crisis.
“We started placing people on March 19 with two hotels, one in Oxnard and one in Ventura,” Ventura County’s Continuum of Care Manager Tara Carruth said to VIDA Newspaper.
The program has since expanded to include another hotel in Ventura and one in Thousand Oaks.
“Three are for the at-risk population, people 65 or older or with chronic health conditions that put them at greater risk,” such as diabetes, Carruth said.
“The other one is for isolation, anyone who has been exposed or is symptomatic, or has tested positive,” for the COVID-19 virus, Carruth said.
So far 14 people have been quarantined at that site, the Oxnard hotel, with Health Dept. staff managing their care. A total of about 250 people are being housed.
Homeless services are considered essential services within Gov. Gavin Newsom’s March 11 emergency “stay safe at home” order.
Carruth said the program will continue until the governor’s order is lifted on April 30 or for as long as the order is extended.
Most of the people housed have been referred by social workers and non-profits like the Ventura County Rescue Mission.
Carruth said one major challenge has been identifying people who have been exposed to the virus. Many of those being housed had been sleeping outdoors or came from encampment sites, and so had lots of contacts that aren’t easy to track down.
“The homeless population changes daily and so it’s contacts are broad,” Carruth said. “But I feel like our efforts are working because we’re quickly identifying and quarantining, and that has helped reduce the spread.”
The hotel space is being leased through the Ventura County Sheriff Office’s Office of Emergency Services.
Besides shelter, services being provided include food, laundry and around-the-clock security—the sites have been fenced off.
“We have medical teams from the County’s Backpack Medicine Program visiting the sites, saving people from having to go to clinics,” Carruth said. Emergency transport to hospitals is available if needed.
Carruth said the county is looking for ways to expand the program to include offering behavioral and social services. Twenty handwashing stations and portable latrines have been placed around Oxnard.
Other emergency shelters like the rescue mission and the shelter at Oxnard’s former National Guard armory on K Street remain open and have been cooperating with the program, Carruth said.
Oxnard Mayor Tim Flynn said the armory shelter has been expanded to include the Police Activities League building in the former Oxnard High School gym, also on K Street.
“One challenge I’ve heard about is that some people are starting to get antsy and wanting to leave, that’s problematic,” Flynn said on Saturday.
Carruth said the Federal Emergency Management Agency is picking up about 75 percent of the cost, with most of the rest coming from state funding. The county’s share will probably be about six percent.