Backpack Medicine offers homeless good help

Photo Courtesy City of Port Hueneme

Photo Courtesy City of Port Hueneme

Port Hueneme– The City Council’s report of the situation among the homeless in the area on November 7 continues with Homeless Liaison Officer Henry Montelongo saying 12 residents of the homeless community were contacted about the City’s Backpack Medicine Program, and 11 were receptive to receiving services.

He pointed to issues at area hot spots and the Goodwill location at Channel Islands Blvd. and Victoria Avenue, where measures have been taken to protect employees at the location.

“What I do is lead doctors, social workers, and County Personnel to those locations,” he said. “I made contact with the homeless first and let them know they are not in trouble; I’m just trying to get you guys help. I have county here.”

He said once they are open to talking with the people offering backpack medicine, Montelongo connects them to the County employees and steps away.

“At least this way, they feel a little more open and speak to the County employees and not have to worry about them disclosing anything they might feel will get them in trouble with the Police Officers,” he said. “I’m within the area as a security option for the County personnel because you never know.”

He said the County employees felt their efforts benefited the homeless community.

“They issued several vaccines and started one person on a Hepatitis C treatment,” he said. “They were very happy with that. Even though no one wanted to shelter, they were at least happy that individuals were able to start with some treatments for some of the ailments they had.”

Montelongo said his Housing Authority partnership is his biggest challenge as the City’s Homeless Liaison Officer since he is learning a new position.

“Gabby Basua, Jessica Cerda, and Anahi Carter have been instrumental in helping me and teaching me what I need to do to make this program successful,” he said. “They said if I want a job over there, there is a place for me as a Housing Specialist.”

He said with Gabby Basua’s help, they created three homeless Section 8 Vouchers.

“The Section 8 Voucher has to stay within the City of Port Hueneme,” he said. “The issue and challenge we run into is that the City is pretty much built out, and we are limited to units that are available to house these individuals.”

He also said payment standards depend on the housing unit’s size.

“If you have one individual, you pretty much are in a one-bedroom or a studio,” he said. “It’s limited in the amount the Section 8 Voucher will pay for compared to three persons; they’ll be able to get a house, and the payment the voucher will cover will go up a little bit more.”

Montelongo said his job is screening the tenants as the Homeless Liaison Officer and verifying they are actually homeless.

“You’d be surprised how many individuals will claim they are homeless when they are not and trying to supersede the whole process and get their name to the front of the line,” he said.

After placement, he said the next step is case worker follow-up.

“What I’ve learned is case worker follow-up is instrumental in making sure the individuals that are being placed in housing are successful,” he said. “We could start putting everyone in housing, but if there’s no one to follow-up with them, making sure they are doing what they’re supposed to be doing and helping them through the whole process, they are going to fail through the whole selection process and then back out onto the streets. We want to make sure they’re successful and stay housed.”

He said income is also a Section 8 challenge as the voucher does not cover everything.

“You are still responsible for a portion of the rent, so there has to be some kind of income coming in to pay for that,” he said. “There is a formula that I’m still learning, and the girls at housing are still trying to teach me how it works. Depending on how much you make and how much the payment standards allow you is how much you pay for your rent.”

He noted that Section 8 Vouchers have an expiration date, and the moment they’re issued, they have 120 days to find a housing unit and be placed, or the voucher will expire.

“Another challenge is the downpayment and credit,” he said. “One case that I’m working on right now, the minimum downpayment for the unit is $4,400, and a lot of these individuals don’t have that money. Also, the landlords and property managers are requesting their credit scores. A lot of these individuals, because of their situation, don’t have the best credit. The Housing Authority is helping me navigate through these processes.”

Montelongo said he is currently helping someone referred to him, and the person has a “little mother” with an Autistic son who has been sleeping in their car and wants services.

“I gave the officer some direction on how to get some basic information, and I’ll be following up on it,” he said. “We started working with her and started seeking some permanent housing options. The obstacle we’re running into is we couldn’t find any available units for her.”

He partnered with the United Way through its Landlord Engagement Program, which incentivizes landlords to participate, and they work with the person to find housing opportunities.

“The United Way found me a unit, and this was all great work with the Housing Authority in finding this unit,” he said. “I went out last week and checked the unit with the tenant. The United Way took the photographs and sent them back to the Housing Authority. They approved the unit. We are waiting for the request for tenancy application process to complete. From there, we’ll go to an inspection and hopefully get the individual moved into the unit.”

He noted that the process takes 4-5 months.

During Council comments, Mayor Rich Rollins said the process requires a lot of patience.

“The City did enter into the County’s Continuum of Care Program; I’ve attended several meetings via Zoom, and I am wondering if you are also making yourself available to attend these meetings,” Councilwoman Laura Hernandez said.

“I am attending those meetings, and there is on November 9,” Montelongo said.

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