April 5, 2024
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State funds more than 100 units in Ventura County with anti-homelessness grants


The Casa Pacifica campus near Camarillo. (courtesy photo)

New funding from Sacramento will help convert a motel in Thousand Oaks to housing for homeless people and buildings at Casa Pacifica Centers for Children and Families to housing for at-risk former foster youth, adding more than 100 units of supportive housing in Ventura County.

Gov. Gavin Newsom announced $694 million in new grants on Aug. 25 in the state’s “Project Homekey” program, bringing the program’s total to $3.75 billion. A successor to the “Project Roomkey” program to lease motels for temporary housing early in the COVID-19 pandemic, Project Homekey funds purchases and permanent conversions of motels and other properties to housing for formerly homeless people.

The city of Thousand Oaks received $26.7 million for its planned purchase and conversion of a Quality Inn & Suites into 77 units of housing. For the project at Casa Pacifica, which is near Camarillo, the county of Ventura received $5.9 million in state funding for 27 units.

Casa Pacifica is one of the first nonprofit organizations to oversee a Homekey project, said Casa Pacifica CEO Shawna Morris. The county of Ventura still had to be the lead applicant, since the program is set up to fund local governments, but Casa Pacific is in the driver’s seat.

“We are one of the few social service agencies that have done this,” Morris said. “It was an interesting experiment … I’m hopeful we’ll be able to learn what it feels like for a social services agency to do this type of work.”

The Casa Pacifica project has a total budget of $6.8 million — $5.9 million from the state, plus $670,000 from the county of Ventura and $250,000 from a private donor, Morris said.

The nonprofit provides housing, crisis care and other services to foster children and other young people in need. It currently has supportive housing for 12 people between the ages of 18 and 25 who have aged out of the foster care system. The Homekey project will renovate three buildings on the Casa Pacifica campus to expand its capacity to 27 units of supportive housing. Each one will be a studio with space for one person or a small family.

Young people age out of the foster system at 18 and are often left without jobs and permanent housing. That puts them at high risk for homelessness, Morris said, pointing to the fact that nearly one third of foster youth and former foster youth nationwide have experienced homelessness by age 21.

“These kids don’t have that nuclear family they can go back to,” Morris said. “We are their family. We are their support.”

In addition to housing, the services will include educational support, vocational training, job placement, mental health treatment and help finding permanent housing.

“Our job is to walk next to them and make sure they have what they need to take that next step to independence,” Morris said.

In Thousand Oaks, the $27 million state grant will be combined with $1.8 million from the city, $6.6 million from the county of Ventura and nearly a million in fee waivers from the Conejo Valley Recreation and Park District. It will fund 77 units of housing, “the most substantive investment in permanent supportive housing for chronically homeless ever in Eastern Ventura County,” Thousand Oaks City Manager Andrew Powers said in a news release.

The city and county are working with Shangri-La Industries, a Los Angeles developer, and Step Up on Second, a nonprofit that offers mental health treatment and services for chronically homeless people. Shangri-La will purchase the Quality Inn & Suites property and Step Up on Second will provide services to the residents.