Thanks to $34 million in state funding, progress should soon be made in the effort to provide safe places to live for people experiencing or at risk of homelessness in Ventura County.
A $27 million “Homekey Grant,” part of the statewide Project Homekey, was awarded to a Thousand Oaks project to convert a former Quality Inn and Suites motel at 12 Conejo Boulevard into 77 units of supportive housing for what city officials describe as “chronically homeless” people. In addition, nearly $7 million in Homekey Grant money will go to Casa Pacifica Centers for Children and Families to renovate three buildings at the charity’s Camarillo campus on Lewis Road. The funding will help build 27 housing suites for adults aged 18-25 who are at risk of homelessness.
Thousand Oaks Mayor Bob Engler said in a statement that addressing homelessness has been a priority of city leaders for many years and the state funding represents a huge milestone. “Securing this essential funding to address homelessness in our community is among the most significant events in the city's history. The collaborative efforts by our city staff and agency partners are exemplary. I am proud of everyone involved and eager to see this innovative project come to fruition and become a place of safety, hope, and healing for those experiencing homelessness.”
City leaders said the efforts represent collaboration with numerous companies as well as public and nonprofit service providers including project developer Shangri-La Industries and Step Up on Second, which will operate the facility. Ventura County government has also committed $6.6 million to the project. Ventura County CEO Sevet Johnson said she was thankful for the partnership that’s making it a reality.
“We are so grateful for the support of the city's elected officials and the tremendous efforts of, and partnership with, the city's leadership and partners to bring this timely and much-needed housing to the Thousand Oaks community,” Johnson said in a statement.
For the $6.8 million going to Casa Pacifica, officials with the organization said the state funding will allow a significant expansion of a program launched in 2012 called “Stepping Stones” helping young people who lack support from family or other trusted adults.
Current cottage interiors at Casa Pacifica (pictured) will be remodeled to make space for 27 housing suites for young adults at risk of homelessness. Photo submitted.
Casa Pacifica CEO Shawna Morris told the Ventura County Reporter how it felt to receive the funding. “It was amazing. It's such an affirmation of the work that Casa Pacifica has done all these many years. And this gives us an opportunity to expand those services and to better serve our community. And when the state and the county recognize that these young adults are suffering and need a place to first be housed and have a safe, nurturing environment, and then recognize that they need the services that we provide, it's just an affirmation of all the good work that's happened in the last 28 years at Casa Pacifica.”
The Stepping Stones program currently serves 12 people, Morris said, but the renovations will allow Casa Pacifica to more than double the number of people helped. The housing will be able to accommodate individuals as well as single mothers and families. Along with help developing life skills, the program also helps young people find and hold down jobs and take college classes. Morris said the program is geared towards both current and former foster kids and people who have been referred from the probation department due to past legal troubles and will help transform lives.
“It means that they have a safe place to sleep at night,” she said. “It means that they have a group of adults around them that will guide them, walk next to them, will help them make good decisions, will be there when they don't make good decisions, because young adults don't always make good decisions. Coming to Casa Pacifica, living in this beautiful new space is a big piece of it.
“But the other part of it is that they will have adults around them that care for them, that want to see them be successful, that will do anything and everything we possibly can to get them on to their next step of independence.”
More information on Project Homekey can be found at homekey.hcd.ca.gov.