Facility will provide shelter, social services and mental health counseling.
By Shirley Lorraine
At long last, Ventura County’s first government-funded and led permanent, year-round homeless shelter is finally ready to open. The ARCH celebrated its grand opening with a ribbon cutting on Monday, January 27. ARCH is an acronym for “All Roads Connect to Housing.”
A joint project between the city and county of Ventura, the 55-bed converted county-owned facility will provide shelter, social services and mental health counseling in addition to job assistance, benefits navigation and other educational programs.
The shelter, located at 2323 Knoll Drive in Ventura, will be operated by Orange County based Mercy House who will take and process referrals. Administration and 24/7 staffing will be done by Mercy House. Occupancy is by referral, and each applicant screened for suitability. According to one staffer, enough referrals have already come through to fill the facility from the get-go. No walk-in services are provided. Ventura’s facility will accommodate 17 single women and 38 single men. And dogs. And cats.
The Mercy House model is “housing first”, which focuses on aiding those in need find stable housing as a primary step toward re-integration into society. Participants will be required to work on a plan to find suitable housing. Case managers will be looking at ways to reduce the barriers between resident’s current situation and permanent housing. However, according to Judy Alexandre, chair of the Ventura Social Services Task Force, finding affordable housing in Ventura County is a continuing challenge.
Ventura Mayor Matt LaVere stated, “This shelter is going to change lives.” He lauded the years of hard work and commitment that have made this achievement a reality and recognized those who have helped lay groundwork for this project. “This is what happens when communities work together.”
Supervisor Steve Bennett added “This shows how our culture and politics have changed over the last 20 years. We are so proud to be the first city in Ventura County to step forward for this project.” He urged everyone to continue to support the next phases of the project.
City Manager Alex McIntyre noted that the “city has made a long-term commitment in this journey toward success.”
Members of the San Buenaventura Women’s Club made and donated 80 blankets for the facility in December. President Rosemary Wilde and several members were present at the opening, presenting a donation of toiletry items, socks and personal care items for the new residents. Oak View Women’s Club and Ojai Women’s Club also donated blankets. Donations from many sources piled about five feet high in the entrance, with more to come.
Volunteers are a key component to the success of the program. To explore volunteer opportunities, contact Anabel Garcia, Volunteer Associate at AnabelG@mercyhouse.net or (714) 836-7188 ext.197. Volunteers are needed for all shifts, all days.
How else can you help? Call (714) 836-7188 or go to www.mercyhouse.net – click on programs, shelters, the Arch. There is a link to their Amazon wish list. Purchases can be made and delivered directly to the facility. Of course, monetary donations are always accepted too.
For more information also visit www.cityofventura.ca.gov/homelessefforts.