Homeless camps in the Santa Clara riverbed happen overnight.
by City Councilmember Christy Weir
There are a growing number of camps being constructed in the Santa Clara riverbed behind the city’s golf courses. It is very sad to see people living in these conditions. The City of Ventura and our social service agencies offer help to the homeless who are living there, and we periodically clean up the encampments for environmental reasons. The trash and human waste that accumulate are a source of pollution that cannot be ignored. It is essential that we continue to clean up our river areas so they are free from the pollution that impacts water quality at our beaches.
Last week we ran into several people. The people were known by the VPD as chronically homeless who have been offered help many times over the years, including today. One man is a veteran from Santa Clarita and has declined services and housing. Another woman came to the river bottom after being in jail. She is a meth user, who has refused all help, including transportation to her family in SF. She told us she didn’t like taking “charity” and supports herself by panhandling. The man with her had previously turned down help because he had a dog– but he doesn’t have a dog now and today was not open to receiving services. This is our biggest dilemma with entrenched homeless individuals- how do you give a “hand up” to people who won’t accept it? We need to keep trying. Giving cash to panhandlers is not helpful–it only prolongs their unhealthy lifestyle by enabling them to live on the streets or in the riverbeds, rather than accepting services that permanently improve their lives.
On a positive note, just last week, a chronically homeless woman who has been living on the streets accepted help for her alcoholism, after it being offered to her many times over the past few years. She is now receiving treatment. And our Family Reconnection Program has reunited over 100 homeless individuals with loved ones who are now helping to care for them.