Vagabond Inn and Best Western Motel have ended their participation as homeless shelters

by Richard Lieberman

The Vagabond and Best Western Hotel recently turned into homeless shelter for the vulnerable homeless population has ended its lease with Ventura County. Citing difficulty with insurance coverage, and a desire by the insurance company to end coverage of the program.

Ventura County Department of Public Health took steps to slow the spread of the Covid-19 virus at the beginning of the emergency by securing housing in Ventura, Oxnard and Newbury Park. The county signed leases on two Ventura properties, the Vagabond and the Best Western

The cost of housing 400 homeless individuals is currently at 1.3 million dollars per month. The cost is shared 25% county and state and 75% by FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) and has been named “operation room key”. Funding for the program was scheduled to end on June 30th, however FEMA extended funding through the end of July. All the motels in the program have opted to terminate their leases even with a funding extension.

A new program administered by the county and backed by federal funds called project “Home Key” will help in securing hotel and motel rooms throughout the county utilizing a voucher program for the homeless being displaced.

The Vagabond and the Best Western are owned by Vista Investments of El Segundo who acquired the properties in 1997. The company will be faced with extensive repairs and refurbishment that will be needed after the program ends.

Tara Carruth, program manager of the Ventura County Continuum said “It was the motels decision to terminate the leases”

“The county is partnering with us to provide a motel voucher program to provide continued placement to high risk individuals,” added Carruth. We are transitioning from full facilities to offering motel vouchers for a select group of individuals that are considered high risk. “one hundred thirty individuals countywide have been offered shelter based on vouchers to those high-risk individuals,” she said. These individuals are the most medically vulnerable.

Voucher funding has been extended and will run throughout the rest of the year. So far seventy-five individuals have returned to the streets and remain unsheltered. “For some of the homeless it was their plan all along to return to the streets because they knew it was temporary and maybe weren’t engaging on a housing plan. Others either were not eligible for or declined every resource that was offered to them, and those are the folks that are still actively searching for housing and have income and just haven’t found a place yet and are working with service providers,” she said.

The motels in question have agreed to accept vouchers instead of leases at least for the time being. The county will pay for the nightly vouchers.

“The hope now is to get those individuals back into shelter through the voucher program. The county also recently started the process of potentially converting one or more motels in the count to permanent supportive housing” added Carruthers.

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