Answering the call for the environment, for humanity
There is a place where our least fortunate citizens go, a place most people have never seen. For many of those who live in the area, it’s considered as a last resort. It’s the Ventura River bottom and late last month a woman was found dead there. An apparent suicide by hanging, the woman, according to reports, had been in and out of homelessness and living with her boyfriend in the arundo jungle before the incident. Though the Ventura Police Department had only vague details to share, the situation screamed of desperation and hopelessness, one that we wouldn’t wish on our worst enemy.
On Tuesday, Aug. 30, 600 California Lutheran University students will partner with the city of Ventura to clean up the riverbed — from graffiti to trash. In its fourth year, the service project, known as You Got Served, is aimed to both beautify and benefit the environment, having removed a total of 25.5 tons of trash over the past three years. (Deaths along the river bottom are rare and no one involved in a cleanup effort has ever found a body.) Refuse aside, the endeavor serves a much bigger purpose.
For those who have never walked along the riverbed, either at the Ventura River or the Santa Clara River, the sight can be disheartening. From piles of trash to holes in the ground where some of the homeless defecate, torn tents for shelter to old dirty mattresses for comfort at night, the river bottom shows a side of true human suffering, whether that lifestyle was chosen by some of those who inhabit the area or was just a desperate circumstance for others.
It is easy for those who are mentally and/or financially stable enough to support themselves to judge those who can’t.
Most people enjoy a place called home with all the amenities to cover their basic needs and typically have a support system of family and friends to sustain them during the dark times. But for those who don’t have a home or family, or choose to live contrary to the norm, they can end up in the harshest of environments and situations when life comes unglued. For many of those enduring such hard times in Ventura County, they resort to living in the river bottom, their lives fully exposed, with no privacy and, in many cases, little dignity.
As the CLU students and the city prepare for the cleanup next week, a call has been put out for volunteers who are capable of leading the charge, not only to restore beauty to our environment but to help ensure dignity for those who are living on the edge. While it is easy to stand on the sidelines and look down on those who are possibly experiencing their darkest hour, taking action and becoming a part of the solution moves not only the homeless and the environment in a positive direction, but also ourselves.
For more information on the cleanup and how to volunteer, contact City of Ventura Volunteer Coordinator Rosie Ornelas at 652-4555 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.cityofventura.net/volunteer.