Homelessness takes center stage at the Ventura City Council Candidates Forum

Foto: Homelessness is a confusing issue with many layers.

by Ross Williams

On September 28th the Ventura City Council candidates for district 1, 4 and 6 met at the Church of the Foothills to discuss the homeless population in Ventura. Our unhoused population in the city currently sits at 713 people. Providing shelter, necessary services and assistance is a major concern for the city council members once elected.

City council members are elected to represent their districts and work together with the city manager in order to legislate and set the policies of the city. Ventura, along with many other areas of our state has seen an increase in the homeless population over the years. As the homeless population has grown, so has concern for the safety of our residents including the unhoused.

There are several issues at hand when it comes to our homeless population. There’s the difference between mental health issues, financial issues and drug issues. Fears of separation from family or pets, confusing and overwhelming red tape as well as the want and need for personal space and privacy. Not to mention the overarching housing affordability problem that may make an individual or family that falls on hard times homeless. These issues all require a different set of tools and tact.

Homelessness is a confusing issue with many layers. At its surface are the obvious issues of sanitation and safety. But when dealing with these issues we must think beyond the baseline and understand that these are people. People who may have fallen on hard times, people that may have mental issues and people that may be struggling with addiction. Being able to provide the necessary services to these people needs to be a part of the city’s structure and ensure that residents and tourists alike feel safe here in our city and those in need of help are in fact getting it.

These are the candidates that spoke:

District 1
Helen Eloyan, Marco Cuevas, Liz Campos

District 5
Bill McReynolds, Marie Larkin

District 6
Lorrie Brown, Danny Carillo, Jim Duran

The candidates touched on many valuable points when discussing these issues during the two-and-a-half-hour forum.

  1. Due to the jail being located in Ventura, up to 27% of unsheltered individuals in the city were once living elsewhere in the county, but once released stayed here in Ventura as there is no program in place to send these individuals back to where they came from, or find them the necessary assistance needed to start the recovery process.
  2. Of the 713 unhoused people, 331 are currently sheltered in various programs throughout the city such as the ARCH Shelter and River Haven.
  3. Private and public services are robust, but wrap around services are needed to guide people from one program to the other.
  4. The city of Ventura has 40% of the shelter beds in the county. Other cities should be working to step up their programs.
  5. Education and understanding is key. Criminal vagrancy and homelessness are two completely different things and ⅓ of 911 calls at any given time are in regards to vagrancy. This puts a large strain on our police and fire department.

Each council member candidate present at the forum was thoughtful in regards to the issues at hand and seemed to truly understand how important the topic of homelessness is to our city and the impact that they can have. The election for District Council Candidates is being held on November 8th.

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