Center for Homeless Boosted by Grant


With $500,000 in new grants and help from the Navy Seabees, a Ventura County program for homeless families will soon double in size, county officials said Monday.

"This was the last big piece of money we needed," said county Supervisor Kathy Long.

The RAIN program, currently based at Camarillo Airport and housing about 50 people from 11 families, will soon occupy a building once used by the Assn. of Retarded Citizens on Lewis Road. ARC has moved to a site in Ventura.

ARC's former building will be refurbished to accommodate up to 22 families with a total of about 110 people.

Plans for the new $1.3-million facility have been in the works since 1998, and a $500,000 state grant awarded last week has allowed them to move forward.

"This allows us to get the program up and moving," said Kathy Jenks, who heads the RAIN program and is also director of the county animal control office. "With a little luck and good weather, we can move in next May."

Long met with members of the Navy and enlisted the Seabees' help in the project.

"They like to do community projects, and they agreed to do it for free," Long said.

The Seabees will dig trenches and ditches and do other heavy construction work.

"It gives them good, valuable training, and they can help out the community at the same time," said Linda Wadley, spokeswoman for the Port Hueneme-based Seabees.

Contributions for the new facility have poured in from all over the county. Ventura gave $40,000 in community block grant money, and Oxnard shared part of a $250,000 federal grant, Long said. Camarillo gave $5,000 and donated equipment from a defunct restaurant sitting on city land.

The $500,000 grant comes from the California Department of Housing and Community Development as part of the emergency housing assistance program.

The RAIN program--an acronym for the River-dwellers Aid Intercity Network--was created in 1997 to help homeless families living in shantytowns on the Ventura and Santa Clara river bottoms. It fell under the direction of the county Animal Regulation Department because so many homeless people owned dogs and wouldn't move unless their pets came with them.

The new RAIN facility will be part of a 58-acre campus on Lewis Road, about a mile from Camarillo. The campus will house and treat the mentally ill along with the homeless. The entire project is expected to be completed by April 2003.

Jenks said she expects construction to begin any day now. Long, however, is more circumspect.

"I would like to say we can begin work on this by September," Long said. "The interior design work is already being done. But the sooner we start the better, because the rains will be here in fall, and that's when we will start seeing the people needing help."

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