In recent days, the economic situation in Ventura County has been beaming with positive news, the recovery in full effect. From the days of massive job loss and foreclosures to today — with a shrinking unemployment rate at 6.6 percent, 1,500 jobs added in the last month, a 9 percent increase in taxable sales for the first quarter of the year compared to the same period the year before, foreclosure filings falling 79 percent from the month of June 2012 to last month — everything is coming up roses, or so it seems.
While many of us are taking in the sunshine, letting out a sigh of relief for job security or at least for the fact that many employers are hiring, looking forward to brighter days of prosperity, Ventura County still has its share of harsh realities that now — in better, if not actually good, times — should be addressed.
As we roam any number of grocery stores, enjoying the freedom to buy more and consume more, we must not forget those who still struggle locally. As Congress wrestles over food stamps in the farm bill, the House opting for corporate subsidies over feeding the poor, FOOD Share, based in Oxnard, currently feeds 74,500 hungry residents per month. Beyond the hunger crisis, however, the County of Ventura Human Services Agency’s (HSA) most recent annual report (for 2011-2012) revealed a rather grim view of joblessness, poverty, neglect, abuse and other of societal ills. To wit, the Human Services Agency:
Assisted an average of 64,795 individuals each month to supplement their diets with CalFresh benefits (underemployed with qualifying income of $2,498 for a family of four)
Provided employment assistance online and at centers to 31,892 customers
Investigated 6,349 reports of suspected child abuse or neglect during calendar year 2011
Assisted an average of 3,901 individuals to receive in-home supportive services monthly
Responded to 2,892 allegations of adult abuse or neglect
The reality is that no matter how great our lives may be going, there are some serious problems that we, as a community, need to resolve together. And the best way to do that, besides donating money to various organizations, is to get involved and volunteer. Each of the groups — the unemployed, abused children, the elderly, the hungry — have organizations that directly benefit them. Plus, if these disparaged groups aren’t necessarily a good fit for every potential volunteer, there are other organizations where donated time and money help the arts, the environment, neglected animals, etc., and they would also benefit from a few hours of free time to overall improve the communities in Ventura County. While some may moan that things apparently aren’t good enough, all that time and energy can go into things to help all ships lift with this rising economic tide. To find local volunteer activities, go to www.unitedway.org