First Published in the Ventura County Star.
In an effort to survey the area’s homeless population, about 400 volunteers hit the streets Wednesday as part of Ventura County's 2022 homeless count.
Volunteers and organizers searched city streets and unincorporated areas for homeless individuals and encampments. Their goal was to take a point-in-time count of the county’s homeless population, while handing out donations of food and water and directing the people to available resources.
To determine whether someone was homeless, volunteers asked, “Where did you sleep last night?”
Jenn Harkey, program administrator in the county’s executive office, said the number of homeless people surveyed on Wednesday won’t be released until April. The homeless count is part of a nationwide survey by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Harkey said communities that receive federal grants are required to do the count.
This year’s homeless count was the first full survey since 2020. The 2021 only included those who were in shelters or temporary housing due to the pandemic, Harkey said.
Organizers and volunteers began the count at 6 a.m. and began fanning through the communities. They collected the person’s initials, age, gender, ethnicity and race. They also noted the individual location to help the county determine where to send its outreach and medical teams in the future, Harkey said.
The Oxnard Police Department will visit the former Halaco Engineering Co. near Ormond Beach in Oxnard on Thursday. The superfund site is a popular location for homeless encampments.
The Ventura Police Department will also conduct a count in the Santa Clara River bottom on Monday. Harkey said the the city of Ventura estimates there are between 80 to 100 homeless people living in the river bottom.
About six volunteers to conduct the early shift of the homeless count in Simi Valley gathered at the city’s homeless shelter, the Samaritan Center. They were briefed by Executive Director Dan Jaeger, and then headed out into the field in pairs.
Bernardo Perez, a member of the board of trustees of the Ventura Community College District, and Corinne Glazier, a homeless services social worker for the Ventura County Human Services Agency, found it difficult to locate homeless people to interview for the count.
But persistently driving around the city, they finally found a few.
They included Sandra Peacock, 58, who was behind a shopping center on Los Angeles Avenue with her bicycle towing her scant belongings. Peacock said she has been homeless for 14 years.
“My boyfriend died, and I didn’t like staying with my daughter because she likes to act like she’s my mom, she said. “So that was uncomfortable, so I chose this until I figure something out.”
David Patterson was sitting in a wheelchair by himself near Rancho Simi Community Park.
He said he had just arrived in Simi Valley from Washington state by train Tuesday night. He said it was the first time he was homeless.
“But I don’t consider myself living on the street,” Patterson said.
He said he slept in a trash bin Tuesday night.
“And then I said, ‘I’ve got to get some sun,’ so that’s why I’m here,” he said of the park.
About 95 volunteers showed up for Oxnard’s count, which began at the Oxnard Housing Department. With the largest homeless population in the county, organizers split volunteers into three, two-hour shifts.
Steven Anthony Galloway III, 30, has lived in Oxnard his whole life. He’s been struggling to pay rent and has been homeless for over a year.
“I don’t have enough money if rent costs a whole paycheck,” he said.
He has tried to get help in the past, but he doesn’t like living in a shelter. Volunteers approached him Wednesday morning on Saviers Road and directed him and others they found to the County of Ventura Health Care Agency’s Homeless One Stop event in Oxnard.
At One Stop, county agencies and nonprofit organizations provided a range of services, including addiction treatment, counseling and vaccination clinics, said James Boyd, program assistant with the health care agency.
The county One Stop events regularly happen throughout the county, offering food, water, showers and clean clothes.
For 10 years, Julie Martinez, 54, has been living in an recreation vehicle in Oxnard and was one of 86 people who visited the One Stop location on Wooley Road Wednesday.
Pushing a wheelchair, she sought help getting permanent housing. She said she needs back surgery and can’t recover in an RV.
She declined to accept food or clothes from the event. She didn’t want to take anything she didn’t need.
“I just want off the streets,” Martinez said.