CLARIFICATION: It was erroneously reported that The Women of Jewelia donated $6,000 to the Turning Point Foundation. Rather, the Women donated $200, the $6,000 figure comes from the auction items sold at a fundraiser in Ohio.
River Haven cannot be seen from Harbor Boulevard in Ventura, hidden among giant reeds. Following a nondescript sandy path into the river bottom will reveal a vibrant community living quietly in transitional housing, made sturdier and appealing by recently constructed Tuff Sheds, or as the residents like to call them, cabins.
The transitional living community, established in 2005, received dome-shaped homes in 2009. The unique structures were expected to be viable for up to six years, and until a fire destroyed several, and strong Santa Ana winds felled another, the domes were still standing. Now, thanks to a collaborative fundraising effort spearheaded by the Turning Point Foundation, all save one have been replaced.
Residents of River Haven pay around $300 a month to live in the community on city property, and case managers work with the residents to find permanent housing while assisting residents with individual issues related to mental or physical health, drug and alcohol abuse, or unemployment.
After the community’s 10-year anniversary in 2015, officials began asking how long the domes could last and where the funds would come from should they need to be replaced. Tuff Shed in Ventura answered at least one of these questions when the company reached out to city officials suggesting that their product might help, as they have in similar communities located in Oakland and Yuba County.
The city of Ventura purchased one Tuff Shed for $4,300, but was in need of 19 more to replace the dilapidated U-Domes. As luck would have it, the city and Turning Point waited only a short time for altruistic organizations to jump at the opportunity to assist with the project.
One such group, the Women of Jewelia, helped procure one of the original U-Domes in 2009. On Thursday, June 21, the women presented a check in the amount of $200 to the Turning Point Foundation.
Patricia Channer, social media administrator for the Women of Jewelia, says that the money was donated by three couples from Sandusky, Ohio, after the women donated a vacation home stay and other items to the Firelands Regional Medical Center’s “Diamonds for Hope” fundraiser benefiting the hospital’s breast cancer center, which sold for $6,000. The couples visited Ventura and donated to the Women of Jewelia, leaving the decision of whom to donate the funds to up to the women. The club chose River Haven via the Turning Point Foundation as one of the recipients.
“These homes have really given people a hands up, not a handout, and everybody has security,” said Channer. “They have rules, regulations and they participate. We’re very glad to be able to support the whole concept 13 years later.”
Visitors to the community toured one cabin in particular with a placard above the door reading ,“Camp NAWIC.” The cabin, constructed by girls attending a summer camp hosted by the National Association of Women in Construction, is a 10-by-12, 120-square-foot insulated home.
“I will guarantee you that this thing will not leak,” said Laurie Bennett, co-owner of Fence Factory, who volunteered her time to assist in the construction of the building.
“It was clear that there was a need for replacement homes,” said Jenn Rodriguez, business development executive with Thousand Oak-based Enhanced Landscape Management and volunteer instructor for the NAWIC summer camp. “We need a project every year for our camp and so it came together naturally.”
Twenty-four girls aged 12 to 18 helped construct the building with nearly one dozen adult volunteers. Twelve-year-old Samantha Venegas, a seventh grader, says that she happily took to roofing and enjoyed working on the project.
“It makes you feel good, not just pride, knowing that someone is going to be able to sleep and have somewhere to stay instead of being on the streets,” said Venegas.
Turning Point Foundation Executive Director Jason Meek echoed the sentiment during a ribbon cutting, signifying the final shed installation.
“This really does attest to a very caring city and very caring community,” Meek told a mixed crowd of gathered officials, volunteers and River Haven residents themselves. “This may not be their home permanently, but for now it is their home. They don’t have to think about not having food, not having a safe place to stay at night.”
Blaine Elkins, who has lived at River Haven for two years, says that the cabins are a definite improvement.
“The sheds are nicer because they’re warmer, they’re not paper thin so that if you’re talking it’s not bothering anybody else, and aesthetically they look better, too,” said Elkins. Elkins calls River Haven the “crown jewel of Ventura County” for the homeless and said that he was moved by the show of support from the community. “It’s heartwarming that there are people out there that do care. Just because you’re homeless doesn’t make you a bad person.”
For more information on the Turning Point Foundation, visit www.turningpointfoundation.org; more information on the Women of Jewelia can be found at www.womenofjewelia.com; and for more information on NAWIC, visit www.nawicventuraoxnard.org.