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Ventura County Program Changes Camps

January 11, 2006|Catherine Saillant | Times Staff Writer

Ventura County supervisors decided Tuesday that a regional homeless program will no longer be run by the county dog catcher.

Voting unanimously, the Board of Supervisors transferred oversight of the River-dwellers Aid Intercity Network transitional living center from the county's Animal Regulation Department to the larger and better-funded Human Services Agency.

In making the change, supervisors said they wanted to dispel any negative impression left by the bureaucratic pairing of homeless people with animal control.

"It's a very unusual fit to have had that under the Animal Regulation Department," board Chairwoman Linda Parks said.

The $1.3-million network was created in 1997 to provide short-term assistance to people living in makeshift camps along the Ventura and Santa Clara rivers. The network was placed under the Animal Regulation Department because the department's director, Kathy Jenks, launched the program.

When winter rains threatened to flood the homeless out, Jenks persuaded them to leave their riverside encampments, promising shelter not just for them but for their pets. She took on administrative duties as well, finding money, buildings and services for the homeless over the next eight years.

The program now helps homeless people from all over Ventura County and provides beds, meals and employment assistance to 275 people each year.

In 2003, the shelter found a permanent home in a two-story building near Cal State Channel Islands, near Camarillo.

Supervisors said the network's managerial duties will be transferred to the Human Services Agency, which already provides a range of social services to its clients.

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