By Nancy Needham (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Colder weather and rain means misery for Thousand Oaks homeless who live outdoors most of the year. Cooler temperatures for those with homes might signal it's time to bake cookies or light a fire in the fireplace. For the homeless it could mean they must stay inside their cars, if they are fortunate enough to have a vehicle, or that they must hunker down inside their tents or canvas coverings in the bushes they call home. It is almost impossible for them to get dry once they get wet. Some just find a building overhang they can use as shelter, hoping nobody minds them being there.
According to the Ventura County Homeless & Housing Coalition, 80 homeless people currently call Thousand Oaks their "home," while 71 of those said they sleep in Thousand Oaks. These counts are roughly 20% lower than prior year counts.
There are many possible reasons for the decline, including some found homes. But Lutheran Social Services-Community Care Center program manager Diana Ortuno said 14 of her homeless clients in Thousand Oaks had died in the last 18 months. A homeless man she worked closely with recently died behind a drugstore. His body was found by another homeless man, she said.
"It's hard to be homeless. Many have addictions. They have health problems. The man who died had lost his will to live. The last time I talked to him he said he hoped he would die because he was in so much pain," Diana said.
Diana tries to help. She said it would be helpful if people would donate more sleeping bags and backpacks for homeless people to use. The LSS-CCC office, 80 E. Hillcrest, Suite 101, offers those who are down and out a mailing address, laundry facilities, a place to take a shower and even lockers so they don't always have to carry all of their stuff.
There is also a free daily meal program throughout the year sponsored by various Conejo Valley places of worship. This meals program turns into a night shelter/meals program during the winter where men, women and children can stay and sleep on cots after they eat dinner. Those who spend the night also receive breakfast in the morning and leave with a sack lunch.
Looking to help? Contact these local churches and your help, be it your time or your donations of food, clothing or funding, will be welcomed.