A winter warming shelter in Ventura County is running out of money, and in order to stay open through the wet and cold season, it is in desperate need of donations and volunteers
As the sun sets and the moon rises in the cold winter months, there is one golden spot of relief for those that live on the streets of Ventura County, the winter warming shelter at the Oxnard National Guard Armory.
Vietnam veteran, Billy Tully has spent the last several years homeless. He says programs like this are what help keep him going.
“Sleeping out in the streets is very hard. The elements and everything just can really wear a person down, but with this facility we can come in and take a shower, get in a warm bed, and sleep with comfort and security,” said Tully.
“We have been averaging 92 people per a night the last couple of weeks. We have a capacity of up to 120 and as the weather gets colder and wetter we get more and more folks here. In the month of December we had a total of 292 different individuals who stayed here at least one night about half of those folks are here almost every night,” said Oxnard’s interim Homeless services coordinator Karl Lawson.
The lines start to form around 5:30 in the evening every night. Guests store their stuff in locked containers before making their way into the warm and safe place. The women sleep in one section and the men in another. While there they not only receive a warm bed, but a hot meal, shower, and a bus ticket to help them get back the next night.
The cost to operate and staff the shelter is $80,000 per a month according to coordinators. The city of Oxnard, Ventura, and the Ventura County Board of Supervisors have covered the cost of keeping the shelter open through the first week of March, but with weather forecasts showing the cold wet weather lasting much longer than that organizers hope they can get enough donations to keep the shelter open an extra month.
“It saves lives. We have some of the more vulnerable people of our community who sleep on the streets for whatever reason and during this cold weather we like to provide a warm place for them to sleep,” said Lawson.
While the winter warming shelter is not a solution to getting men and women out of homelessness, it is used as a stepping-stone. Tully says this will be one of his last nights at the shelter. In the coming weeks, he will be moving into a transitional housing program and be one step closer in his road out of homelessness.
“I am graduating, so it does work,” said Tulley.
In order to stay open through the end of March the The West Ventura County Regional Winter Warming Shelter still needs nearly $80,000, as well as additional volunteers. For more information on how you can help, click here.