PORT HUENEME—The City Council’s report on the situation among the homeless in the area continues on November 7 with homeless liaison officer Henry Montelongo saying that 12 residents of the homeless community were contacted about the city’s medicine knapsack program, and 11 were receptive to receiving services.
He cited issues in hot spots and the Goodwill location on Channel Islands Blvd. and Victoria Avenue, where measures have been put in place to protect employees on site.
“What I do is drive doctors and social workers and county staff to those sites,” he said. “I called the homeless first and told them they’re not in trouble; I’m just trying to help you guys. I have a province here.”
He said once they open up to talk to people who deliver medication on the back, Montelongo hooks them up with county staff and steps away.
“At least that way, they feel more open and talk to county employees and don’t have to worry about them saying anything they feel will get them into trouble with police officers,” he said. “I’m inside the district as a security option for county employees because you never know.”
He said county employees felt their efforts benefited the homeless community.
“They released several vaccines and started one person on hepatitis C treatment,” he said. “They were very happy about that. Although no one wanted shelter, they were at least happy that people were able to start some treatments for some of the diseases they were suffering from.”
Montelongo said his partnership with the housing authority is the biggest challenge he has faced as the city’s homeless liaison since learning a new position.
“Gabe Basua, Jessica Cerda, and Anahi Carter have been instrumental in helping me and teaching me what I need to do to make this program a success,” he said. “They said if I wanted a job there, there was a place for me as a housing specialist.”
With the help of Gabe Basua, he said, they created three vouchers for the Section 8 homeless.
“The Section 8 voucher must remain within the city of Port Hueneme,” he said. “The problem and challenge we face is that the city is very much built up, and we are limited in the units available to house these individuals.”
He also said that payment criteria depend on the size of the housing unit.
“If you have a single, you’re pretty much in a one-bedroom or a studio,” he said. “It’s limited by the amount the Section 8 voucher will pay compared to three people; they’ll be able to get a house, and the amount the voucher will cover will go up a bit more.”
Montelongo said his job is to vet the tenants as the homeless liaison officer and verify that they are indeed homeless.
“You’d be surprised how many people are going to claim they’re homeless when they’re not and try to scrap the whole process and get their name at the front of the line,” he said.
After the placement, he said the next step is to pursue the worker.
“What I’ve learned,” he said, “is that follow-up of case workers is instrumental in making sure that individuals who are placed in housing are successful.” “We can start putting everyone into housing, but if there’s no one to follow up with them, make sure they’re doing what they’re supposed to do and help them through the whole process, they’re going to fail through the whole selection process and then get back on the streets. We want to make sure they’re successful. And they stay in their homes.”
The income is also a challenge for Section 8, he said, because the voucher doesn’t cover everything.
“I’m still responsible for part of the rent,” he said, “so there must be some kind of income coming in to pay for that.” “There’s a formula that I’m still learning, and the girls in the dorm are still trying to teach me how it works. Depending on how much you make and how much the payment standards allow you to do, is how much you pay in rent.”
He noted that Section 8 vouchers have an expiration date, and once issued, they have 120 days to find and place a housing unit, otherwise the voucher will expire.
“The other challenge is the down payment and the credit,” he said. “One of the cases I’m working on right now, the minimum unit down payment is $4,400, and a lot of these individuals don’t have that money. Also, landlords and property managers are asking for their credit scores. A lot of these individuals, because of their situation, don’t have the best credit. A body helps me.” Housing to move through these processes.”
He’s currently helping someone he’s been referred to, Montelongo said, and the person has a “young mom” with an autistic son who sleeps in his car and wants services.
He said, “I gave the officer some directions on how to get some basic information, and I will follow through.” We started working with her and started looking at some permanent housing options. The snag we’re facing is that we haven’t been able to find any units available for it.”
He’s partnered with United Way through their Owner Sharing Program, which incentivizes landlords to get involved, and they work with the person to find housing opportunities.
“United Way found me a unit, and it was all a great job with the Housing Authority in finding this unit,” he said. “I went out last week and checked the unit with the tenant. United Way took the pictures and sent them to the Housing Authority. They approved the unit. We are waiting for the rental application process to be completed. From there, we will go to the inspection and hopefully the individual will be moved into the unit.”
He noted that the process takes 4-5 months.
During council comments, Mayor Rich Rollins said the process required a lot of patience.
“The city has already entered the county’s Continuity of Care program; I’ve attended many meetings via Zoom, and I was wondering if you would also make yourself available to attend those meetings,” said Councilwoman Laura Hernandez.
“I attend those meetings, and there is November 9th,” Montelongo said.