Ventura County Homeless in the COVID-19 Era

By Lang Martinez and George Miller (with major assistance from Tara Carruth)

With astonishing speed for government, the Ventura County Continuum of Care, State of California and FEMA have quickly reacted to help protect the most at-risk homeless people from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The most visible manifestation of this is the county leasing and taking over 4 area motels to house what they believe to be those at at-risk homeless- namely those over 65 or with significant health/disability conditions.

They are currently managing these facilities and sheltering 250 people at: Oxnard Vagabond, Ventura Vagabond, Best Western in Ventura and Motel 6 in Newbury Park. They have fenced off the properties and are providing security, medical/mental heath, meals, laundry and other support to this at-risk population. The Oxnard site is for sick and exposed persons requiring quarantine or isolation. There are two people who have tested positive for COVID-19 thus far.

Oxnard Vagabond Motel (Google Map photo)

Tara Carruth, our source at County Medical Services told us: “we do not have specific costs as those leases were secured through the Sheriff Office of Emergency Services,” and that FEMA will reimburse for 75% of the cost and emergency state funds are being drawn upon, as well. Leases are for 30-60 days and renewable for the duration of the emergency.

In addition to this emergency housing/services program, they are also doing outreach to encampments, shelters and other locations to screen, test and provide healthcare/social services to homeless persons. They are also working on bathroom access, charging stations and additional food distribution via FoodShare.

Recent homeless encampment at Oxnard Halaco Superfund site. Photo: Lang Martinez

 

Here is the county’s press release on this:

Press Release on Efforts to Serve Homeless Community During COVID-19 Emergency

The County of Ventura Office of Emergency Services has secured 4 motel sites to provide non-congregate shelter during the COVID-19 emergency. These motels were secured in East and West Ventura County to provide safe locations to shelter homeless persons near their home community. Motels were selected based on location, availability and cost. A portion of these costs will be reimbursable under the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

The motel sheltering effort is closely following California Department of Public Health  (CADPH) and Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) guidelines to provide non-congregate shelter for unsheltered homeless persons who are 65 years or older and/or have underlying health conditions that may put them at high risk for complications if they become ill with COVID-19. Referrals to these motel locations are made by community homeless service providers including non-profit agencies and county agencies in partnership with cities and law enforcement partners that serve the homeless community. All persons are medically screened prior to being admitted to the motel. One motel location is being used for persons requiring isolation due to exposure or suspected symptoms or quarantine for positive COVID-19 patients.

Motel sites are secured with fencing for the protection of the motel residents and staffed with 24/7 onsite security. The three sites for healthy but at-risk residents are staffed by the County Human Services Agency in partnership with referring homeless service providers to ensure service linkages and support. Ventura County Public Health and Ambulatory Care staff are providing support to all sites. A small number of rooms have been set aside for hospital discharges of persons who meet the high-risk criteria or are requiring isolation or quarantine and do not require hospitalization.

Additionally, the County’s Backpack Medicine program which includes a team of doctors and healthcare professionals will respond to homeless shelters, encampments and other locations to screen and test homeless persons in the field and safely transport when necessary.

The County is leading a regional Homeless Taskforce as part of this public health emergency. Resources and protocols are posted at www.vcemergency.com. Homeless Services are considered “essential services” under the State and County “Stay Well At Home” order. Our service providers continue to shelter, house and work to meet the basic needs of people experiencing homelessness.

Questions may be directed to Tara Carruth with the County Executive Office and Ventura County Continuum of Care at [email protected]

 

Thanks for Tara’s response to the questions asked. Like I said, she would give you the most updated information. 

She is very compassionate on the issue of homelessness and has an extreme amount of knowledge to be heading up this Crisis. We as a County couldn’t have asked for a better LEADER to get us through this crisis- that I know for sure. 
We are all doing all we can to make a difference, but what we must make sure of is to advise our Communities that they must follow direction of the experts that are working on this Crisis and stay in place and indoors to be safe. 
Thanks Lang, for helping us keep our Communities educated and updated with the blessing by Tara, and thank you for allowing me to be at the table with you.  I’d like to say thanks to all those workers that are helping us through this crisis. This is only going to work if we work together as team members. Special thanks to Emilio Ramirez, our Oxnard Housing Director, for all he’s doing to keeping our City of Oxnard safe. 
– Peggy Rivera, Oxnard Chair,  Commission on Homelessness 

Homeless advocate Lang Martinez told us he’s spent a total of about 6 years on the streets (non-contiguously) in LA and Oxnard and been in multiple recovery programs. He says he is clean now and taking one day at a time, trying to help local homeless people. He is the author of the Nobody Knows But Me Citizens Journal series.

George Miller is Publisher/Co-Founder of CitizensJournal.us and a “retired” operations management consultant residing in Oxnard.

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3 Responses to Ventura County Homeless in the COVID-19 Era

  1. C. Zubko April 8, 2020 at 11:23 am

    Timely article. We needed to hear this information.

    Reply
  2. William Hicks April 8, 2020 at 1:01 am

    FYI
    There are also various Churches in Thousand Oaks/Newbury Park that are stepping up to the plate supporting the homeless at these locations.

    Reply
  3. Lang Martinez Nobody Knows But Me April 7, 2020 at 8:18 pm

    I am Lang Martinez and the author of Nobody Knows But Me! I would like to thank Tara Carruth for being for her due diligence and her complete honesty when myself and Citizens Journal asked her if should would please answer some questions that made this article possible! For most of us being homeless and caught up in addiction the only thing that matters to us is we’re are we going to get are next fix and how are we going to get it? Even with this pandemic of the Virus and catching it and the possibility of dying is secondary to get our next high!! Living like that and ive been there, we are not capable of loving ourselves and eventually shit does happen like this virus!! But its indaviduals like Tara Carruth and Emilio Ramirez are there to take care of us and love us when we are not capable of taking care of ourselves!! I would have to say that there definition would be clarified as an ESSENTIAL

    Reply

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