The following questions were those that were submitted at the Homeless Symposium on September 22 via comment card. Some questions were addressed at the Symposium, but all are available here and organized by category.
Legal or Policy Questions
- What is the city position on the 9th circuit court decision?
The City of Boise filed a petition with the US Supreme Court to review the decision and the City of Thousand Oaks, along with other cities, are filing an amicus brief in support of the US Supreme Court reviewing the case.
- Can you compare what the mayor of San Diego has done to address homeless to our City approach?
First, the City of Thousand Oaks does not have the same issue and number of homeless that San Diego has. Also, larger cities have more programs and resources that smaller cities do not have access to, making it hard to draw any comparisons. In Thousand Oaks we are fortunate to have great relationships with nonprofit partners and houses of faith to help in finding common solutions.
- Is it in the constitution that you must have a roof over your head?
- Can the City start an initiative that would seek a legal “conservatorship” for people that are not willing to take advantage of the help that is being offered to them?
Individuals do not lose their fundamental constitutional rights by virtue of the fact that they have become homeless. Therefore, they cannot be forced to accept services against their will except where they have been found to be “gravely disabled” due to mental illness. The process for obtaining a conservatorship is a long and complicated one that requires findings by medical personnel, the County and the court system to make a determination that someone is unable to care for themselves. It is not a process that the City or even law enforcement can initiate. Once a conservator has been appointed, whether they are a family member or the County Public Guardian, he or she becomes responsible for coordinating medical care, benefits and services, financial transactions, etc. for the conservator. As it involves taking away someone’s rights, it is granted very sparingly.
- Have you considered making you of the City’s Open Space for community raised bed gardens to be leased out to willing homeless individuals?
One of the main purposes of zoning land as Open Space is to preserve it in as natural a state as possible. At this time, only very limited improvements directly related to the recreational use of the land are allowed on land designated as Open Space. Any change in use would require a Municipal Code amendment That being said, a partnership between the City or CRPD and a community group dedicated to running a garden is something that could be explored. The Oak Park Community Garden oakparkcommunitygarden.org is one model that could be followed but it is unlikely this project would be cited in Open Space.
Understanding Homelessness and How to Help
- Do members of the panel personally know someone who is homeless?
Yes—all five do. Chief Hagel has a family member who is homeless.
- How can students help make a difference?
Currently, there is a lot of engagement around youth initiatives. The County is working to find community meeting times that work well for students. For more information contact Tara Carruth at firstname.lastname@example.org
- There are a diverse number of reasons for homelessness so there needs to be a diverse set of responses, how can we bring services that exist to people who need them?
This is true. Cities, the County and service providers are partnering together in order to make more services field based and therefore more accessible to the people who need these services.
- How can you tell the difference between a panhandler and person in real need?
No one can make that judgement however, the City, TOPD, and local providers implore people to help create change rather than give it out because giving directly to a homeless person doesn’t help anyone. If you give intentionally to experts, they have access to resources that public does not and can make donations go further.
- How can I help?
- Are there a lot of Transitional Aged Youth aging out of foster system? How can we help them?
The number of transitional aged youth (TAY) which is ages 18-25, aging out of the foster system is rising. Initiatives from the State and Federal government are coming out and include funding directed at TAY. Additionally, special housing vouchers are becoming available through HUD for this population. The situation for TAY has improved since AB 12 was passed.
- Giving to panhandlers is more personal, how can we respond person to person amongst anti-pan handling campaigns?
Instead of giving to pan handlers, go volunteer with social service organizations who are providing direct assistance. This is a very personal experience, especially if you have children who you want to teach to give back. Giving to panhandlers only perpetuates the issue and causes issues for businesses and law enforcement.
- Could the City start a program that calls for participation by the community churches and synagogues to “Adopt a Street Person”. That person/organization would obtain a legal conservator status and the organization would take charge of the welfare of the individual under the supervision of a city representative?
The City’s role in this very complex issue is not as a direct provider of services but as a conduit to support the organizations and people who are most knowledgeable and best equipped to address homelessness on its many different fronts. Support of the faith-based community and service organizations is invaluable in these efforts as well. As noted above, legal conservatorship is not a simple process and the court has the final say as to who is ultimately the appropriate conservator for a particular individual. Our community members are currently providing much in the way of support – food donations to Manna, the hot meal program and rotating shelter beds during the winter to name a few. For those groups that would like to go even further, a partnership with one of our local service providers would be the most effective route to having a real impact.
- There seems to be an increase of homelessness in the parking lot of the Thousand Oaks Library, people are sometimes doing drugs, sitting in cars, and setting up encampments. Can police stop this encampment and illegal activity?
Yes. This issue is on TOPD’s radar. Both Vulnerable Populations officers work on a daily basis with Library staff to coordinate responses. It is against the law to do drugs and TOPD has a zero-tolerance policy on this matter.
- How do the police survey encampments for criminal elements?
Drugs can be an issue in encampments, however Vulnerable Populations Officers are assigned to patrol and enforce the law daily. In addition, twice a year, TOPD does a homeless count to track where homeless are setting up encampments.
- Can the City open the old vacant K- Mart building for homeless housing? What about other buildings throughout the City?
Per the 5th amendment, the City can’t take property. K-Mart is owned by a private property owner. We need to find willing property owners who can build affordable housing. It is challenging to build housing, especially affordable, because it is expensive. Since Redevelopment Agencies were dissolved by the state, cities don’t have resources to assist with funding of affordable housing. In addition, we also need public support to make these development decisions.
- Do we have an inventory of residents offering housing?
There is a county program called Home Share. This program started as a program for seniors with an open room in their home, but now has expanded. Home Share will screen and place persons seeking rooms with the appropriate fit. The ongoing issue with Home Share is that there are more people seeking housing than housing availability.
- What do we need to do to get 250 units of housing with wrap around services in the city?
The first step is education and outreach. It starts with a symposium in order for people to understand the complexity of homelessness and where our limitations lie. There also needs to be willing property owners for building and funding projects.
- Aside from funding, what is the primary barrier to having affordable housing year-round? Is it NIMBYism or something else?
The primary barrier to affordable housing is funding. The “Not in My Backyard” concept also is a huge obstacle we are facing locally. One thing that the community needs to understand is that we are not bringing homeless people in from other communities, for the most part these are our own homeless.
- What part of the new General Plan will be dedicated to the homeless issue?
The General Plan is focused on the physical development of the community and as such will probably not address homelessness in a comprehensive way as you would see in a homelessness plan. There will be policies related to providing transitional and supportive housing and identifying potential locations for emergency shelters as required by state law, but there may not be much beyond that depending on feedback received from the public and City Council through the process.
Questions on Services Provided
- When will our elected officials introduce legislation that will require those with mental health or substance abuse issues to seek help?
It is very challenging to get those struggling with mental illness to take services they may need but may not necessarily want. In the 1970’s we were on one end of the pendulum regarding forced mental health services, now we are on the other. Collectively, City partners try to use enforcement as a tool to get people into services, however legally it is a very high bar to get a court to take decision making rights away from a person.
- Citizens are being denied housing when illegal immigrants are receiving services? Where is the money that is donated going?
There are some federally funded programs where a non-citizen can live in housing and there are conversations that this may be changing. Currently a child who is a US citizen and eligible for programs and a undocumented parent can live in provided housing with the eligible dependent. However, most programs require you to be a US citizen to be eligible.
- Why do homeless persons in Thousand Oaks not want to go to Oxnard for services?
People want to stay close to home because they are connected to people, services, and organizations where they are from. It is very challenging to change communities and have to change doctors, other providers, etc.
Have you considered a “Safe Parking Program”?
The City has done research on other communities that provide Safe Parking Programs and at this time is focusing efforts on other ways to address homelessness such as affordable housing and permanent supportive housing.
If the homeless can’t go to the library, etc. then where should they go for personal hygiene, etc.?
Homeless individuals have the same rights as everyone else to use public buildings and other public spaces. They are entitled to visit the library. No one is allowed to use a public space in such a way as to disrupt the purpose of that space, however. There is no prohibition on a homeless person using a public restroom for instance, providing that they do so following any rules or guidelines that might be in place, and in such a way that does not impede other members of the public from also using that restroom. That would be the same for anyone using the space, whether homeless or not. Additionally, social service providers such as Lutheran Social Services provide shower and laundry services to the homeless.
What are some places that mostly help Foster youth?
The Interface Youth Outreach Line #805-469-5882 (24/7 support) serves youth, ages 12 to 21. Interface also has a youth drop in center at 260 W. 4 St. in Oxnard, open Mon - Friday 2 – 6pm. Also, the County of Ventura Human Services Agency has the Independent Living Program (ILP) for foster youth, ages 16 to 21 #805-654-3451.
- Why did the number of homeless persons in the HUD Point in Time Homeless Count decrease in 2017, and why does the count not occur more often?
The annual Point in Time Count is a one-day count executed by the County of Ventura per HUD and is not a perfect science. In 2017, there were inclement weather events during the count which could have impacted the numbers.
- How many veteran homeless are there?
The annual Point in Time Homeless Count is deceiving because most veterans who were homeless had only been showing up in shelter system for the winter shelter. Now with more year-round shelters, veterans are more actively engaged with the system. There are currently 73 actively engaged right now countywide. TOPD engages an estimated 10-15 homeless veterans per week in the Conejo Valley.
- Of the 300 homeless how many are youth, women and children, elderly? How many want to transition into housing? How many are addicts stuck in their lifestyle?
For more specific demographic information please reference the annual Point in Time Homeless Count. There is no data on how many want housing or are stuck in a cycle of homeliness but when someone seeks help in the County they are entered into a Coordinated Entry System and tracked.
- You scheduled this event from 2 PM to 5 PM. You started at 3:30 PM and ended at 4:30 PM. Why is that? There were many more questions that could’ve been answered. Also, nothing was addressed to the fact that Medical does not support rehab treatments for addicts.
The doors opened at 2PM and the program began at 2:30 PM. The first part of the event was scheduled to be a panel discussion to educate the community with 30 minutes following of question and answer for the engagement portion. All questions that we did not get to and including the ones we answered that day are available in this FAQ. The remaining amount of time allotted was for participants to engage directly with providers. For questions on Medical, please contact the Ventura County Healthcare Agency.
- Could the city print business cards that would have help contacts listed? When a citizen comes into contact with a homeless person they can give them the card?
There are several of these resources already available in the community, including a brochure the City developed and handed out at the Symposium. For this information please visit our website at www.toaks.org/homelessness
- What about those who don’t want to leave a homeless lifestyle?
There are very few homeless folks that don't want to leave the homeless lifestyle. As far as addicts or mentally ill homeless who do not want to be sober or have fears of being locked up in a facility, these people are rare among the homeless population.
Where does the federal government fit into the crisis? Can more finances be created to provide incentives for builders and current landlords to rent to lower income/homeless persons?
The federal government provides funding opportunities such as Community Development Block Grants (CDBG funds) that are used to fund local social service providers and programs. This money is generally very tightly restricted as to how it must be used. In addition, we work with HUD on affordable housing issues.