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75 people without shelter as county ends program; supes to discuss motel vouchers, more rental assistance

7 18 20 Seal

Many of the vulnerable homeless people in Ventura County who had been housed in four area motels through a government-funded program called Project Roomkey — created to help reduce the spread of COVID-19 — had to leave the motels at the end of June. That was when county government officials ended the program and did not renew it, although the state extended it at least through July 30.

While some of the more than 300 people housed through the program in Ventura County found temporary accommodations, a county official said 75 people were returned to living outside or in their vehicles.

Despite the state extending Project Roomkey funding, county officials said they plan to provide motel vouchers in its place; on Tuesday, July 21, the Ventura County Board of Supervisors will vote on approving a new $3 million Motel Voucher Program.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency had partnered with the state to reimburse 75 percent of motel operations through Project Roomkey.

 

According to the state of California COVID-19 statistics, the county of Ventura reached just 2% of its goal in securing rooms for vulnerable county residents in high-risk categories for COVID-19: 

https://public.tableau.com/views/COVID-19HomelessImpactDashboard/HomelessImpact?:embed=y&:showVizHome=no

The Tuesday, July 21, Board of Supervisors meeting, which will also include an update on the county government's response to COVID-19, will be held starting at 8:30 a.m. The agenda may be viewed at:

https://ventura.granicus.com/DocumentViewer.php?file=ventura_456111420192ffbeea9574f757a9b867.pdf&view=1

The meeting can be watched live Tuesday, July 21, starting at 8:30 a.m., at: www.ventura.org/bosmeetings.

 

Applications open July 22 for $600 million in state Homekey program

There is no mention in the agenda of the extended state funding of Project Roomkey or Gov. Gavin Newsom's $600 million in funding for Homekey — the next phase in the state's resonse to protecting Californians experiencing homelessness who are at high risk from serious illness from COVID-19. 

 

Newsom announced the state will be accepting applications starting Wednesday, July 22, for the $600 million in state Homekey funding.

According to a press release from Newsom Thursday https://www.gov.ca.gov/2020/07/16/governor-newsom-announces-600-million-in-homekey-funds-now-immediately-available-for-local-governments-to-purchase-housing-for-homeless-californians/ ):

"The $600 million in grant funding will be made available to counties, cities, and other government entities to purchase and rehabilitate housing including hotels, motels, vacant apartment buildings, and other types of innovative housing, and convert them into permanent, long-term housing for people experiencing or at risk of experiencing homelessness.

"'Homekey is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to massively expand housing for the homeless in California with federal stimulus funds,' said Gov. Newsom. 'This unique opportunity requires us to move quickly, in close collaboration with our city and county partners, to protect the most vulnerable people in our state.'

"Geographic and racial equity have been baked into Homekey, with dedicated funding for various regions and a goal of addressing the deeply inequitable impact of homelessness on Black and Latino communities across California."

On June 23, Ventura County Executive Officer Mike Powers said the county had put out "requests for qualifications" from local developers to convert motels into housing for people without shelter. at A previous board meeting, he had said that at least one Motel 6 owner in the county had indicated interest. There was a push in April for the county of Ventura to house vulnerable homeless people because it was part of the state's criteria for reopening businesses in May and because Public Health officials said it was important to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

 

On April 18, county government officals reported in a press release that the county had placed more than 255 people without shelter in motels to protect them from COVID-19 and was working to place 100 to 150 more people.

That same day, Newsom had held a press conference with an update on Project Roomkey, praising Ventura County's effort to meet one of the state's criteria to qualify for reopening — housing vulnerable homeless people. (The press conference can be viewed here: https://www.facebook.com/CAgovernor/videos/2603233529993176/.) He said the state has an "amazing partnership" with Ventura County on Project Roomkey, just one of a handful of counties he praised twice during his press conference.

In expressing the importance of Project Roomkey's aim to help medically vulnerable seniors, Newsom spoke in soaring terms about the counties' role in achieving the goal of helping care for them. He asked communities to consider "seniors that are just desperate for a key, a lock, a place of their own, the dignity that comes with that, their lives on the line."

He asked communities to "consider their selves in the context of others, consider their actions in the context of their community, consider their actions in the context and annals of history. They'll judge themselves, not just be judged by others, by to the extent they help the least among us at this incredibly important time. No one stands taller than those leaders that bend down on one knee to help lift other people up. ...  Consider the moment we're in and the ethical question you're being called and asked upon. Consider your station in life and in history. All of us will be judged. Homeless individuals are members of our community, people that are a paycheck away from losing the capacity to have that key and a lock and a place to call home and I hope we'll consider their lot and their future as well."

Back then, the county of Ventura had secured housing options at local motels in Ventura, Oxnard and Newbury Park, according to Ashley Bautista, county public information officer.

Along with providing rooms, county agencies, as part of Project Roomkey funding from the state, helped provide transportation, medical and mental health care, nutritional needs and on-site security. People were medically evaluated before they are cleared to be housed in a county-provided shelter, Bautista said.

On April 18, Tara Carruth, program manager with Ventura County Continuum of Care, told the supervisors: "We are trying to place persons in a location near their home community whenever possible and commit to helping individuals reconnect with that community when it is safe to do so. Facilities of at-risk individuals are supported by the Human Services Agency as the site lead, meals are provided and there is 24/7 security on-site."

It is not stated in the July 21 agenda if any of those support services will be extended to vulnerable homeless people who are provided motel vouchers.

 Proposal to add extra month of rental assistance

At the supervisors' July 21 meeting, they will also update the COVID-19 Rental and Business Assistance Grant programs, which are providing a total of $20 million in federal coronavirus relief funds, to businesses and individuals who applied for the grants during two-week application periods that started in June and closed in early July.

They will consider adding an additional month of rental assistance for a total of three months to those applicants who were chosen. They also will consider combining all the applicants for rental assistance into a single phase under the Rental Assistance Grant Program. Initially, the plan was to have three different application reviews.

$2 million in Federal Coronavirus Relief Fund proposed to go to County Executive Office

The supervisors will also consider transferring $2 million from the Federal Coronavirus Relief Fund to the county Executive Office "for COVID-19-related efforts," although it did not specify what those are.
 

 How to participate in meeting

Since most county buildings will be closed starting Monday, the meeting will be held via video conference and the public will be able to participate electronically in the following ways:
— Email or mail public comment in advance of the meeting:
If you wish to make a comment on a specific agenda item by email or mail, submit your comment via email by 3:30 p.m. on the day prior to the board meeting at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or mail to:
Clerk of the Board of Supervisors
800 S. Victoria Ave.
Ventura, CA 93009
Indicate in the subject line the agenda item number (e.g., Item No. 9) on which you are commenting. Your email will be distributed to the Board of Supervisors and placed into the item’s record of the Board meeting.
— Email public comment during the meeting
If you are watching the live stream of the board meeting and would like to make either a general public comment (Agenda Item 8) for items not on the day’s agenda or to comment on a specific agenda item as it is being heard, submit your comment, limited to 250 words or fewer, to the clerk of the board at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Include in the subject line of your email both the Agenda item number (e.g., Item No. 9) and the words “Read at Meeting.” According to the board agenda: "Every effort will be made to read your comment into the record, but some comments may not be read due to time limitations. Comments received after an agenda item will be made part of the record if received prior to the end of the meeting."
— Video public comment using Zoom
Register at www.ventura.org/bosmeetings  no later than 3:30 p.m. the day prior to the board meeting. Provide your name, email, and the phone number you will be calling in from. You will receive an email with the Zoom meeting call in phone numbers and password by 6 p.m. the day prior to the board meeting. During the meeting, click on the link provided in the Zoom email and a clerk will connect you to the board room when you are prompted to provide public comment.
Review the Zoom instructions on the registration page to help ensure there are no technical difficulties during your comments and help you understand public comment procedures using Zoom.
— Call in public comment using Zoom
Register at www.ventura.org/bosmeetings  no later than 3:30 p.m. the day prior to the board meeting. Provide your name, email, and the phone number you will be calling in from. You will receive an email with the Zoom meeting call-in phone numbers and password by 6 p.m. the day prior the board meeting.
During the meeting, call one of the phone numbers provided in the Zoom email and a clerk will connect you to the Board room when you are prompted to provide public comment.
Review the Zoom instructions on the registration page to help ensure there are no technical difficulties during your comments and help you understand public comment procedures using Zoom