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CARING FOR THE MOST VULNERABLE
By Alicia Doyle/VC Reporter – November 20, 2018
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Since 1972, the Ventura County Rescue Mission has provided hope through a daily emergency shelter, faith-based programs and a dedicated team of counselors, chaplains, case managers, vocational instructors and community volunteers.
“All programs are offered without cost,” said John E. Saltee, Director of Ventura County Rescue Mission and Lighthouse for Women and Children. “We take a person living on the street, man or woman, and through our programs they can become a fully functioning, productive and independent citizen. We also serve meals daily to anyone in the community in need.”
In addition to serving an average of 700 meals daily to men, women and children, “we serve a diverse group of people coming to us with a variety of needs,” Saltee said.
For instance, the men’s 10-month Life Recovery Program serves those 18 years and older who struggle with addictions.
“They come from a variety of socioeconomic and educational backgrounds — some have been on the street or in jail but now realize that they need help to overcome the power of addiction,” Saltee said. “It is the same for women, yet for the women, many now have children and realize their need for life skills and parenting skills to move forward in life.”
There are many myths surrounding the homeless or low-income, he said, including that the poor have a variety of opportunities to receive help, or that they are lazy.
“Although there may be those who may fit the typical profile, many poor are working hard yet cannot climb out of poverty,” Saltee said. “One incident can change everything.”
For instance, one family living close to the Ventura Mission for the last 10 years has to relocate because the landlord has decided to change the complex to adults only.
“They have been searching for new housing. And although they have limited financial ability, their issue is not solely financial but [that] there is no housing available for them,” Saltee said.
This is a common problem within Ventura County, he emphasized.
“They are a family of six and not able to find a two-bedroom available for rent that is within their means,” Saltee said. “They will soon be out of their current apartment with nowhere to go and may find themselves homeless next month. They are employed, have paid their bills, tried to survive day-to-day financially with what they have, but because circumstances change, there are no options, and like others we see, their lives spiral downward.”
There are so many that have had to face multiple circumstances and have become mentally exhausted in their effort to get help — and “give up,” said Suzanne West, Community Relations Coordinator at the Ventura County Rescue Mission.
“Lack of affordable housing and assistance for mental health issues seem to be at the forefront of the issue,” West said. “The Mission is well known to the poor and homeless in the community and many come to us daily as we are able to offer refuge, recovery and restoration. All of this is at no cost because of the support from the community.”
The Ventura County Rescue Mission also collaborates with other agencies countywide to connect those in need with the best opportunity possible.
“We like to think of our services as giving a hand up — not just a hand out,” West said. “We have the variety of services needed to get a person to the next level of help and often it starts with simply a nutritious meal or warm bed before other help is accepted.”
At the Ventura County Rescue Mission, “we look at each of our clients one life at a time — no story is the same,” Saltee said.
“This, for some, is all they know,” he said. “Others began their addiction with pain killers because of an injury and are able to hide it from family members or friends for a long time, not knowing how to ask for help. The pull of addiction is strong and extremely difficult, if not impossible, to overcome on your own.”“Many come from abusive childhoods, introduced to drugs and alcohol by parents and on the streets as a child,” said Saltee, noting that one client began drinking when introduced to alcohol by his mother at the age of 7.
Homelessness is increasing, “and we need to help as many as possible,” Saltee said.
“In today’s times we have seen government funds change direction depending upon administrations in the local, state and federal level,” he said. As a nonprofit for more than 46 years, “we are able to focus on programs that have success and confront the issues of homelessness and addiction without concern to change programs according to funding.”
The current philosophy is to go from homelessness to home.
“Although this is absolutely imperative, unfortunately, there is a large volume of people who are not able to sustain housing because they do not have the skills to lead an independent life and need the opportunity to gain life skills, recover from addiction and receive vocational training,” Saltee said. “With our help they can then not only eventually get into housing but maintain their housing for the long term.”
Stay connected with the good work the Mission is doing, and learn more about the people we help.