Thousand Oaks addresses local homeless humanitarian crisis

Trash+and+furniture+is+shown+in+an+empty+parking+lot+that+used+to+be+Armstrong+Garden+in+Thousand+Oaks+on+Monday%2C+Oct.+18%2C+2021.+Photo+credit%3A+Christina+Mehr

Trash and furniture is shown in an empty parking lot that used to be Armstrong Garden in Thousand Oaks on Monday, Oct. 18, 2021. Photo credit: Christina Mehr

By Christina Mehr

Amidst the Thousand Oaks community’s homeless humanitarian crisis, local organizations have stepped up to help those affected by struggles with poverty, illness and/or drug use.

According to the 2021 State of Homelessness in Ventura County Homelessness report, the City of Thousand Oaks has 119 homeless citizens in need of permanent housing. Thousand Oaks has a multitude of services to give assistance to the homeless population.

For emergency shelters in the area, there has been an increase of 45% in the number of people needing a congregate shelter. In just Ventura County alone, 745 people were in need of housing support according to the report.

Vulnerable Population Officers handle homeless complaints and also work hand in hand with local social service organizations to compile resources for the homeless.

“The Thousand Oaks Department’s homeless outreach program continues to work closely with local stakeholders and service providers to provide quality care to those in need,” stated Vulnerable Population Services.

Senior Deputy Sheriff of Vulnerable Population Services Juan Cordova elaborated on what is currently being done to support the homeless community.

“Many of the homeless in our area are being served by local homeless services organizations,” said Cordova. “The CDC has ordered that the homeless cannot be moved for fear of the spread of COVID.”

Ventura County Behavioral Health rides with the Thousand Oaks Police Department weekly for outreach purposes as they also work with the Ventura County Health Care Agency.

John Pekko, a homeless citizen of Thousand Oaks, explained why people end up homeless and how it is not always a choice.

“Being homeless isn’t always something that this community chooses, as a lot of us are forced into this lifestyle because there’s really no other option for us,” said Pekko.

The Thousand Oaks Police Department also works closely with Harbor House, a social service agency located in Thousand Oaks. Homeless citizen Magdala Eloise explained why Harbor House’s services are so helpful to those in the community.

“They do really try to help you out if you’re homeless or in need, and they also do a good job of connecting you to other valuable services they offer,” said Eloise.

Harbor House helps those struggling in the Conejo Valley by offering daily meals, rental assistance, fresh produce and even gas and electric bill assistance. Executive Director of Harbor House Denis Cortez plays a critical role in the organization to help to advocate for local homeless people.

“We meet new people every day,” said Cortez. “Some are addicted and can’t seem to break free; others live with the powerful effects of childhood trauma; even more of them are hungry, lonely or mentally fragile.”

In an effort to help the homeless, Moorpark College, in association with Ruben Castro Charities, is hosting local food drives under the Moorpark College Pantry.

Ruben Castro Charities is a non-profit organization that is committed to stopping the progression of generalized poverty and homelessness. The organization works to address the hunger needs of students on campus and those in surrounding communities.

The Moorpark College Pantry, also known as “Grab and Go Groceries at Moorpark College,” can be located at the Campus Center. More information on how to use these services can be found on the County of Ventura website.

Resources are also widely available to those who need them and can be found on the City of Thousand Oaks website. Other resources including medical services, access to hygiene facilities and mental health hotlines are also available for those in need.