Clyde Reynolds has been a quintessential leader in the realm of homeless advocacy in Ventura County for 25 years. With a background in working with the mentally ill, Reynolds came to Ventura to set up Turning Point, a facility that specifically deals with meeting the needs of the mentally ill and those who were homeless. Despite pushback from the community, Reynolds was able to topple fears and provide much-needed services for many in Ventura. Twenty-five years at any particular job requires a certain mastery of the work, something Reynolds has exhibited time and time again. At 70, though, Reynolds is ready to pass the baton on to the next great leader, who will take Turning Point to the next level. With his retirement set for January, he reflects on 25 years of service, what the future holds and Turning Point’s gala on June 21.
Photo by: Gary and Pierre Silva
Clyde Reynolds, who founded Turning Point in 1988,
will be retiring after 25 years as executive director in January.
VCReporter: Why did you decide to retire now?
Reynolds: Well, I suppose age is a factor. It’s time. It’s my 70th birthday here, so I’ve been working for a long time and it’s really time for me to turn over the reins to new leadership and to have the organization move into the next stage of its growth. I think we’re in a really good place now so I have to kind of step aside and see where the organization goes next.
In the last 25 years at Turning Point, what has been your greatest milestone?
Well, I think there have been more milestones. Certainly, getting the organization going and getting it established was a lot of hard work in the beginning because the community wasn’t really prepared for the kind of programs we were going to bring into the community. We had a lot of opposition when we tried to site residential programs in residential neighborhoods. When we tried to establish our first day program in downtown Ventura, we had a lot of opposition from the merchants.
That was the first thing, just getting the program up and running and kind of overcoming the resistance to the community and getting a chance to step back and allow us to start those programs, and for the community to discover that really the worst fears were really not realized, and folks who are mentally ill in their community deserve to live in their neighborhood like everybody else, and our program needed to be in the community. We were an asset and not a liability. We were really addressing a community need that was really important.
I think we’ve been able to, over the years, expand those programs into a range of services, serving those people who are specifically homeless and mentally ill. It is a really huge need in our community to establish our first shelter, create the housing that was needed to give them permanent places to live with support, those things like getting River Haven started, which was another community need for addressing folks who were living in the river bottom and housing folk who were really difficult to house.
Recently we’ve gotten a few new programs that are delivered by those people who have their own experience with mental illness, so our wellness program and quality-of-life programs are now programs where people who themselves have been mentally ill are helping others.
You’ve seen a lot of differences since 1988, a lot has changed. What’s the biggest difference today in the homeless community since when you began?
What we’re experiencing today is something that’s kind of really exciting. In the early days, when folks were seeing the homeless as people who are just a nuisance in the community, what’s happening is that we’re now working together. We’re working with the city, we’re working with the community and realizing that there are many faces to homelessness. A lot of these programs would never have gotten off the ground if we didn’t have the support of the city, and Turning Point was willing to step up to the plate and be the organization to deliver the program.
What we’re seeing is collaboration between agencies like Project Understanding and Salvation Army, and we’ve put together the Homeless2Home program and we’re working together. We’re working together with the cities, county governments, and it feels like we’re really, today, on the same page and we’re all trying to concentrate on those approaches that really end homelessness.
Have you noticed that there might be an increase in people who have a mental disorder or there might be more families on the streets?
I think there was some increase and challenges, especially during the recession, that really hit hard. Families who were trying to survive and looking for employment and those who were living on the margin already and lost their employment. I think that did see an increase.
For the mentally ill, I think it’s been fairly constant, with some growing numbers just because of the number of people who are there, but I think you have to look at different populations. The mentally ill have always made up 25 percent to 30 percent of people who are on the streets and that number and percentage seems to be relatively the same. As our population grows the numbers grow, but the percentage has remained relatively consistent. I think we’re now starting to see some decrease in that because of our priority methods. We’ve seen more of the people we consider more chronically homeless. We’re starting to have some success in ending their homelessness, and those are some changes that are starting to have some effect and I think our most recent homeless count shows that.
Who do you think would be the best person to step into the role you’re leaving?
We’ve spent a lot of time processing that and I know that we’re in this transitional process. We’re working with a company called Transition Guides. They’ve been working with our board and our staff; we’re trying to create a profile for the next director. We definitely want a person who has excellent management skills, someone who is familiar with our field and really understands the field of mental health, and particularly someone who understands the approach Turning Point takes to addressing the needs of the mentally ill.
We’re looking for someone who has a passion for working with persons with mental illness, who really feel that this is an area that they really want to make a contribution, so a person who fits into the culture we’ve created here at TP. We feel like it’s a culture that supports people, it’s supportive to the staff and the people we work with. We actually hire a large number of individuals into our staff who are people with their own experiences. I think we’re looking also for a person who is current with what’s happening in the mental health fields these days and who can help us find new opportunities to partner and fund programs to extend those programs into areas like a new program that is actually happening at the old Project Understanding building, a program for homeless mentally ill veterans.
Tell me about the 25-year gala.
This is very exciting because we’re having this kind of milestone and being able to celebrate an organization reaching 25 years. We’re still here. We’ve grown. We’ve expanded and it’s time to celebrate what we’ve achieved. At the same time, with my transition and this kind of milestone, it’s funny to think about how do we sustain our mission in the future.
This celebration, it’s nice to have the community come together and help us recognize what we’ve achieved and view where we’re going. That’s the main point. We’re going to continue to do what we do every year, which is recognizing individuals in our community who have made a difference, individuals and those who are living with mental illness. We have identified a number of individuals we are going to be honoring.
It’s always nice to celebrate and recognize those people who are working alongside us so those persons with mental illness can live a satisfying life in the community.
The eight annual gala, Honoring Champions of Mental Health, on June 21, at 4 p.m., will be held at Four Points by Sheraton Ventura Harbor Resort at 1050 Schooner Drive in Ventura.
Jim Duran resigns from Project Understanding
Jim Duran is a well-known figure throughout Ventura’s charitable community. As the executive director of Project Understanding since 2012, Duran has helped with the establishment of the Homeless2Home program and has become a leader who ingrained himself in Ventura’s charitable organizations. With six children, a grandchild on the way, involvement in several other Ventura County organizations and as the head pastor at The River Community Church, Duran says that he needs time to manage it all.
VCReporter: Why did you decide to resign?
Duran: When I came aboard with Project Understanding, I was actually a board member. Rob Orth asked me if I wanted to do it when he went to apply at The Salvation Army.
One thing led to another and I said, “When you want me, let me know.” So we’re sitting in a board meeting and he recommended me to be the executive director. I love the organization and I wasn’t sure if that was the direction I wanted to go, but I really felt led to do it.
I thought that this might be a good opportunity to connect the project to the larger community. Our board was about a dozen . . . we’re almost to 21 now. It was amazing the people who were coming on.
When I came on board, I didn’t even know that there was a possibility of that building being sold to Turning Point. We thought, “How are we going to do this and move forward?” Really, though, it’s one of the best things we’ve done.
Now we have this building that I’m dealing with. We had to move the pantry first because the pantry sold before the office building sold, so we moved to First Christian Church on Teloma. What pantry services do we have near the college? I got that going. I got, all of a sudden, the people at what used to be The City Center at Kingdom Center give notice — what’s going to happen with these families?
I met with the owners and said, we’ll provide oversight and case management for six months, pro bono — we’re going to do this for free for six months to help The Kingdom Center get on its feet.
So there are all of these plates being turned within this organization. Around January-ish, I just felt really the stirring that the assignment I was on was coming to an end, my season’s over. Our church is growing again. I have a family of six children that need a dad, my wife needs a husband. I’m at a place where the Lord was saying: “Hey, your time is up now.”
Clyde [Reynold]’s leaving in January from Turning Point; I’m leaving now. So the person that is coming into this world is going to be the next face of Homeless2Home. There needs to be some longevity for this person and that wasn’t me.
When I gave notice one of the things they asked me was, will you please stay on the Faith in Action committee — that’s the committee that pulls churches together to work with Project Understanding — and I said yes.
Is it going to be hard to disconnect from being in such an involved position?
Being on the board is going to help tremendously since I’ll still have some kind of voice, so I won’t be disconnected. I know I’ll be able to step away because our staff has risen to the occasion and they’re great leaders in their own programs.
What was the hardest part about running Project Understanding?
I think the funding part of it. We want to deliver, so if we can help out we’re going to help out. I think it started when Rob was over there; we changed to the Homeless2Home collaboration so if you wanted help, you actually had to check in and be case managed.
I know that there were a lot of donors who were not real excited about that. They wanted us to have a place like it’s always been, but times have changed, seasons have changed, and Rob did a great job making that transition. There were some longtime donors [who left]. I’m not sure if we ever recovered from that, because maybe their philosophy was different from the direction we were going.
I don’t think there’s an organization like ours: 11 tutoring sites, a pantry that serves 1,000 to 1,400 people per month, plus all of our different areas of housing from the SHORE [at Working Artists Ventura] to Oxnard Transition to Tender Alliance to now managing the City Center.