One Stop Shop for Homeless Assistance

VC's Healthcare for the Homeless Program offers a multitude of services

By Lori Denman-Underhill

The homeless in Ventura County seek a multitude of needs and are finding them in a centralized location –  One Stop Outreach.

The outreach facility was created by the Healthcare for the Homeless Program, which was established in 2002. The program started off with two locations in Ventura and Oxnard and has since expanded to seven.

The seven One Stops in Ventura County offer intake and referral to homeless persons without shelter; assistance in attaining a healthy living condition and permanent housing and help to those suffering from substance abuse disorders, mental or physical health issues or domestic violence. The staff guides homeless clients into receiving medical care, clothing, food, transportation and mentoring. Best of all, the transitional aspect offers counseling and referral to discover their barriers which create their homelessness. Each person learns of local, state and federal programs and other private sector agencies. They also learn how to obtain identification including a driver’s license and Social Security card.

Two of these new seven sites also offer the “shower pot,” where homeless people may come in, shower and wash their clothes. Every day of every year they are expanding and gaining additional services.

Michelle Surber has been the administrator for the Ventura County Healthcare Agency for the Healthcare for the Homeless Program and the One Stop Outreach for over five years. She is the also the administrator for the Healthcare for the Homeless Clinic, a transitions and addictions clinic. There are three components to the clinic – medical, transitions and addictions. There is also the outreach components to the program.

This multitude of services create a destination alike a one-stop shop, which is how the name, “One Stop Outreach” formulated. Individuals may arrive who are at-risk or homeless. All in one day, employees see a variety of individuals arrive who need a variety of assistance. Clients arrive and are told what programs they are eligible for within the county and local nonprofits.

Surber visits the seven One Stop locations in Ventura County, but is mostly behind the scenes working hard. Surber has a diverse background. She has worked with children and families for over 15 years, has a masters in Child Forensic Psychology and was employed by residential treatment centers andin-home and outpatient at-risk youth programs.

Surber described how she grew interested in her work.I came to Ventura County because this program is one of the very few LA Center Healthcare Agencies and one of the very few Social Service programs. I wanted to assist the county, specifically the Healthcare Agency with the vulnerable population that is in Ventura, for the homeless.”

Surber also discussed the topic of the service resistant homeless.  Citizens Journal  interviewed Sandra Troxell  with the Salvation Army, who stated that their group is trying to slowly build relationships with each of these persons, in order to hopefully get them to accept programs and services.

“A year-round shelter will help,” Surber said of Troxell’s efforts. “It will draw people in. But unfortunately with those service resistant clients, it really is about relationships. It’s one thing that the Salvation Army and Healthcare for the Homeless do pretty regularly. Not just with the One Stops, but we have a Backpack Medicine Group that has just started.”

The Backpack Medicine Group includes a medical provider, a plain-clothed police officer and Healthcare for the Homeless Program staff. They go into the homeless encampments and talk to each person to inquire if they have any medical issues that need to be addressed. This group hopes that they will eventually surface out of the encampments to seek medical attention and seek services.

“The biggest thing is that we need them to come out and accept services,” Surber added with hope.

Overall, Surber is thankful for the Healthcare for the Homeless Program and One Stop community outreach treatment centers, as she and others have witnessed positive change in many homeless persons.

Homeless vagrants on Main Street. Photo by Jim Rice.

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, and more. She is now the Ventura reporter for Citizens Journal.

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One Response to One Stop Shop for Homeless Assistance

  1. William Hicks July 11, 2018 at 2:01 am

    I was a ProjectManager for The Los angeles Unified School District and our motto was “A One Stop Shop.” It can be a n effective way of doing things depending on who is in the leadership role.

    In this particular case, I would ask if things have improved since the beginning of this particular program that has been in effect since 2002. What are the successes that can be pointed out? Has the homeless issue improved or not?

    If the homeless issue hasn’t improve since 2002, or even not stayed static, then I’d question either the leadership or the program in total.


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