YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Study Urges More Homeless Shelters for Local Families

Ventura County is shown to have few alternatives for women and children.

June 11, 2003|Catherine Saillant | Times Staff Writer

Women and children make up a growing number of Ventura County's homeless but have a more difficult time finding beds in shelters than single men, according to a report released Tuesday.

While the Rescue Mission in Oxnard and the Turning Point Foundation in Ventura provide year-round emergency shelter for men, no comparable beds are available for women and children for eight months of the year, the survey prepared by the Ventura County Homeless and Housing Coalition found.

The county homeless population's most pressing need is for places where families can stay for a few nights at any time during the year, the report concludes.

While efforts are underway to build such emergency shelters in Oxnard and Ventura, completion is still years away, said Cathy Brudnicki, who presented the report's findings to the Board of Supervisors.

Meanwhile, there is room for just 60 homeless families in the county's network of transitional shelters, where women and children can stay for up to two years before settling into permanent housing, she said.

"People think of the homeless as the guy on the freeway offramp with the sign," Brudnicki said. "I can tell you that is not the typical homeless person in Ventura County."

A survey conducted in February backs her up. Coalition members found 437 homeless people in shelters scattered across the county and asked the adults a series of 25 questions.

The data they compiled are detailed in the 29-page report released Tuesday. The report concludes that many people are being squeezed out of apartments as rents spiral and vacancies plummet.

Many of those interviewed said they are willing to work but have a hard time holding down a job without a stable place to sleep or shower.

For the second year in a row, 51% of those in the shelters were women and children. Of them, 88 said they had waited up to a year for a room in a transitional shelter.

While they waited, they slept in cars or tents, and fretted about getting to their jobs and keeping their children in school, the report states.

Other key findings from the survey:

* People are remaining homeless longer. This year, 37% had been homeless two years or longer, up from 28% last year.

* Disabled people made up one-third of the survey respondents.

* Most are longtime county residents. Nearly 60% had lived locally for at least a decade.

The Homeless and Housing Coalition is an advocacy group representing public and private agencies. This is the seventh year the coalition has done the survey.

Los Angeles Times Articles