Senior Case Manager Jimmy Pete helps determine the eligibility of candidates for services at the facility.
by Amy Brown
The Salvation Army Family Service Center on Oak Street in Ventura has received a grant from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and now has a new five bed section for transitional housing specifically for homeless veterans. The section now makes a total of 17 beds, in addition to the existing eight for men, and four for women in the large facility. The 24/7 center provides housing, three meals a day, case management, and healthcare benefits, all geared towards helping individuals make the transition from homelessness to a range of housing options in the area. The new veteran’s section was added in January of this year, and has been full ever since, according to Salvation Army Program Director Sandra Troxell. “It’s a great time to be a veteran—we’ve seen the most services ever offered during this time,” says Troxell. “Our organization is well connected with providers both in and out of the county, and we are accepting veteran candidates not just locally, but from all over the country.”
According to Troxell, most clients stay at the facility for an average of 90 days, although some emergency cases may only stay for 30. With the current area housing crisis, average local Ventura County rents are extremely high, availability is low, and many veterans have fixed incomes of only about $900 per month. Approximately 50 candidates for the transitional housing services come to the Oak Street facility per month to seek help. “Some are referrals, some just come and knock on the gate, and either way I sit down right down with them to see if they are eligible” says Jimmy Pete, Salvation Army Senior Case Manager. “Veteran candidates are provided with even more coordinated and streamlined efforts, including working with County Behavioral Health. Each vet gets six different types of workers on his or her case from both Los Angeles and Ventura.”
The facility’s team provides up to six months of case management after placements, to provide home visits, make sure that each client is doing well, and has no problems with landlords or neighbors. The center is also planning to recruit for a Housing Navigator position, to further interface and advocate for veterans after they are connected with landlords. Pete shares that those transitioning from homelessness to housing opportunities need coaching and retraining assistance. “We provide help with some things that many of us might take for granted, including hygiene and even how to use a day planner,” he says. “These are clients that might have at one point graduated from college, but now they are just beaten down from being homeless and need the support.”
Another new offering from the Family Service Center on Oak Street is for the community as a whole. The facility has a professional eye clinic, which is funded and partially staffed by volunteers from the Rotary Club and the Lion’s Club. The new weekly clinic hours are Tuesdays from 9am-11am and are open to the public, no questions asked, with a local optometrist providing free eye exams, glasses and other services. The public is encouraged to arrive early, as it is first come, first served and limited to the first six of seven cases each week.
“That is what I love about the Salvation Army,” shares Troxell. “It’s ever changing; the organization is able to see what the community needs, and has a great ability to adapt, ask what does the community need, and adjust to fill that gap.”