It has been said that ignorance is bliss, but when it comes to the problems at the south end of Ventura at the Santa Clara River, ignorance is on the verge of wreaking havoc.
First, the flooding of McGrath State Beach is creating major concerns at Harbor Village. While McGrath State Beach floods every spring until the river breaks down the berm to ease the winter flooding, this winter, there was not enough rain to create the surge necessary in the Santa Clara River to break the berm. The stagnant water is posing a serious threat to Harbor Village businesses due to a possible mosquito infestation, but artificially breaking the berm is illegal because it could threaten endangered species by hurting their habitat. On Tuesday, the Ventura County Board of Supervisors passed a recommendation that would allow county staff to organize a meeting with Supervisors John Zaragoza and Steve Bennett and local and state agencies to properly address the situation. While we feel a sense of urgency to, in essence, bring down the flood gates, we have to think about the long-term effects on the environment. Ignoring the problem for several months — especially after having invested hundreds of thousands of dollars to stave off closure of the park due to a sewer problem and to keep the facilities open to campers during the summer — has turned out to be a complicated mess, a mess that might have been avoided with better planning. We strongly encourage the supervisors to move swiftly toward finding a reasonable solution and to make it one of their top priorities.
Second, there is another “infestation” underway at the Santa Clara River. When the city moved the homeless out of the Ventura River bottom late last year, city officials knew there would be unintended consequences to a rather well-intended endeavor. Displacing the homeless forced them to find another spot to land. For some of them, the Santa Clara River bottom behind Turning Point’s River Haven project seemed a suitable place to relocate. Furthermore, newly homeless people in the area no longer find the Ventura River bottom as an option, and some migrate to the Santa Clara River bottom. Due to these unfortunate circumstances, the homeless population in that area has now doubled to around 70 people and, as some local officials put it, it’s a lawless society there. And without laws, physical and sexual violence and other crimes are rampant and mostly go unreported. While officers have been visiting often to patrol the area, city officials are under pressure to find a solution to this desperate situation.
With the recent release of the numbers of the annual homeless count, Ventura County saw an 8 percent drop in its homeless population, from 1,936 to 1,774. And that’s during times that are still considered an economic hardship. So why the decrease? Because programs such as the Homeless2Home Project put in place by the Salvation Army, Project Understanding and Turning Point have yielded tangible results. In the last year, upward of 100 homeless people have either been relocated to permanent housing or have been sent back to their homes and families in other cities and states. Almost two-thirds of the drop in the homeless population over last year can be directly attributed to such programs.
While there is much concern over the dire and dangerous situation in the Santa Clara River bottom, and while Ventura Keys and Pierpont residents raise their concerns about the homeless population to the city, the proof is in the pudding. There will always be homeless people that will refuse services and/or housing, but if we, as a community, decided that instead of complaining about the problem we act and help find housing for these people, we would surely see this situation start to diminish. Ignoring the problem, sweeping them from one river bed to another, hasn’t and won’t solve anything. Sticking to a solution that has yielded actual tangible results is the sane thing.
If you know of any available low-income housing that may be a good fit for the Homeless2home program, contact Salvation Army at 648-5032.