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Agencies craft plan to end homelessness

Times Staff Writer

Providing better assistance to indigents discharged from hospitals, teens transitioning from foster care and former jail and prison inmates reentering society are among the things Ventura County agencies can do to prevent homelessness and help end the problem within a decade, advocates said Monday.

These and other recommendations were outlined in a 41-page draft report presented at a countywide conference in Camarillo by the Ventura County Homeless and Housing Coalition, which includes 50 public and private agencies.

Other ideas in the report included taking crucial services directly to those on the street, rather than waiting for the homeless to seek help, and building hundreds of apartments for extremely low-income people -- those making 30% or less of the county’s median household income of $79,500.

“If you can prevent someone from becoming homeless, it’s much more cost-effective than working with them after they’ve become homeless,” said Cathy Brudnicki, the coalition’s executive director.

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County Supervisor Kathy Long, who attended the conference, said she was encouraged by the standing-room-only crowd and the broad representation from the county’s 10 cities, which included housing and law enforcement officials.

“There’s a real interest on the part of the people who deal with homelessness year-round to get off the treadmill of thinking of it as a seasonal problem,” Long said. “We need to look at the people who are one or two paychecks away from becoming homeless.”

The draft report contends that the longer a person remains homeless, the more intense his or her problems are likely to be. This is why seeking out the homeless to provide them services would be more effective, the report concluded.

The homeless population increasingly includes children, and the adult population requires a wide range of services, such as education, employment, healthcare, mental health care, veterans benefits and help in cases of domestic violence or with substance abuse, according to the report.

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Continuing to allow homeless people to stay in overnight shelters indefinitely “is costly and often does not help them acquire the skills and resources necessary to obtain and maintain permanent housing and live self-sufficiently,” the report states.

Instead, the coalition recommends setting up a case management system to help individuals and families navigate the various programs available to assist them.

“Some of the things we’re recommending already exist,” Brudnicki said, “but they may not exist countywide or there may not be enough of it.”

Brudnicki emphasized that the report is only a draft and that the coalition will take at least five months to gather input, generate additional suggestions and refine its recommendations.

To review the report, go to www.vchhc.org and click on the link that reads “current draft of the 10 Year Strategy to End Homelessness in Ventura County.” To reach Brudnicki, call (805) 485-6288, Ext. 273, or e-mail her at cathy@vchhc.org.

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greg.griggs@latimes.com


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