Homeless Who Accept Salvation; Vagrants Who Don’t

Salvation Army aims to help with programs and services

By Lori Denman-Underhill

One group that works hard to help the homeless, on and off the streets, is the Salvation Army Emergency Shelter and Ventura Transitional Living Center.

The group goes above and beyond the call of duty for any homeless man or woman looking to find their way. Services include a shelter with 12 beds, transitional living, counseling, life skills classes, parenting classes and case management. They only hope that the person wants and accepts help.

Jimmy Pete is the employee each homeless person meets when walking through Salvation Army’s doors. He is the Senior Case Manager of the Salvation Army Southern California Division at the Ventura facility on Oak Street. Pete works with each person and their specific needs. Many homeless individuals struggle with sobriety, and they find a home at Salvation Army, thanks to their policy and Pete’s assistance.

“You do not need to be sober upon entry, but when you start staying, a longer intake process includes a drug test and going sober,” Pete explained to Citizens Journal.  “Not being sober does not disallow entry.”

However, there are those who do not accept services, programs or assistance in reaching sobriety. These persons may continue drug use in public and commit other crimes. When asked if there is a problem with a subset of the homeless causing crime and vagrancy, Pete said, “We’ve had hundreds of persons on the streets causing problems. It took a murder to wake everyone up and get upset about the problem.”

The Programs Offered by Salvation Army

Salvation Army Ventura Program Director Sandra Troxell also spoke with Citizens Journal. She oversees their social services programs.

Programs and services offered by Salvation Army aim to get the homeless back in their homes, with housing placement assistance. There is a homeless outreach program, in which the group travels out to areas in town to offer programs and services. There is also the Rapid Rehousing Program, that financial assistance program for those that are homeless and have found a place to live, but need financial assistance. The Salvation Army pays for their first month’s rent and deposit. Finally, they offer a homeless prevention program with another nonprofit, which assists with rent payments (with payback). The Safe Sleep program, coordinated with local churches, offers the homeless to sleep safely in their cars in their parking lots.

Troxell and the Salvation Army also join the police and social services groups to help each person with their specific needs. This is enlightening information for those in the community who think that the homeless are just given tickets, placed in jail and are stuck in a system that does not work.

“We work closely with all of our community partners including social services groups and the Patrol Task Force, to offer the homeless services and programs that help them get off the streets,” Troxell said.

All of these groups work together to provide the Community Intervention Court, a program established in Ventura a few years ago. Chronic offenders who receive tickets from the police for illegal camping or minor offenses are offered other programs or services and are case managed, if they want to avoid jail time.

“This is a targeted approach to see how we can all come together and help each person out of their negative situation,” Troxell explained. “We keep talking to them about the services to try to help them.”

Existing Problematic Issues

The social services programs are offered to the homeless, but if they do not have a place to stay, how will they start to use them? This is considered to be the number one problem by Troxell. She hopes for more shelters and wishes to transition someone who is homeless from the streets to a shelter and then into housing.

However, do those who commit more crimes – the homeless vagrants – want to live in a shelter? What if they are refusing services and programs?

“Over the years, the city of Ventura has reduced their homeless count significantly,” Troxell said. “What we are seeing now are those who have been chronically homeless for a long time, that have chronic health issues and chronic drug addictions. They have been somewhat resistant to services. That is the group of people we are trying to target in a more collaborative approach. It’s not necessarily all people who commit crimes, it’s those who have lived on the streets for a long time and have gotten used to the lifestyle.”

It is difficult to serve this subset of the population. There is not much any of these groups can do, when services and programs are refused. It is problematic when the person does not accept assistance of any kind. For those who do not accept services and continue to commit crimes and decrease safety towards the community, what is an answer? Our next story will tackle these questions with a local business owner of Ventura who is standing up for his rights and is recruiting other community members to join in the fight to take back their city.

Lori Denman-Underhill has been a professional journalist since 1996. She has worked as associate editor for the Los Angeles Daily News TODAY Magazines and has freelanced for LA Weekly, Surfline.com and more. She is now the Ventura reporter for Citizens Journal.

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suz montgomery

The Salvation Army does an exemplary job in emergency and transitional living.
Very impressed with the Downtown site and SA folks who run
the facility.
They serve our community well.

However, this pic is of the SA facility on Petit Ave, next door to the Silvercrest Residence for seniors.
This site would make a fantastic senior center with programs and classes to to the largest population of seniors in Ventura.
Why not utilize this space or partner with the city ?
One senior center does not serve the 30% of our senior population.

William Hicks

There certainly is a difference between homeless that have just fell on hard times and those that have made a career move to be professional vagrants.

They both need to be treated differently.