Homeless families in Ventura were treated to free Christmas meals at Santino’s Pizza Parlor on Christmas Day. Owners Steve Zolotas and Sabina (husband and wife) with daughter Aracely and several volunteers served approximately 130 people 30 pizzas, spaghetti and salads, plus cookies, and each child received two to three gifts.

Darian Loehner, Izayah, 2, Edgar, 8, and Cesar, 31, who live in their car in Ventura, partook in the festivities.

“It was good and we enjoyed ourselves,” Loehner said.  “It made Christmas somewhat normal for us.”

Loehner and her family are among 30 to 50 people living in their cars in the city of Ventura; in Ventura County, there are approximately 200 people living in their cars, according to Peter Brown, community services manager for the city of Ventura.

As locals communed together in the holiday spirit over the weekend, Ventura County officials were also celebrating, but for a different reason: The county’s Continuum of Care, which administers Housing and Urban Development grants, received an extra $204,000 last week for the new year, a total of $2.2 million for housing programs. The county plans on using the extra funds for a new rapid rehousing program with Lutheran Social Services in Thousand Oaks.

Also, the county will be implementing another new program to house chronically homeless individuals, moving away from funding transitional housing programs to permanent housing programs due to a shift of focus at the federal level.

For the Christmas dinner at Santino’s, the Salvation Army, Project Understanding, Food Share, County Human Services Agency, Society St. Vincent DePaul also contributed. The effort was spearheaded Jim Duran and Charleen Mora of The City Center, Transitional Living Community.