Port Hueneme – The City Council report on the situation of homeless people in the area on Nov. 7 continues with Homeless Liaison Officer Henry Montelongo saying 12 residents of the homeless community have been contacted about the city’s Backpack Medicine Program, and that 11 were amenable to receiving services.
He pointed out problems at area hot spots and the Goodwill location on Channel Islands Blvd. and Victoria Avenue, where measures have been taken to protect workers at the site.
“What I do is direct doctors, social workers and district personnel to those locations,” he said. “I first contacted the homeless and let them know that they are not in trouble; I’m just trying to help you. I have County here.
He said once they are open to talking to the backpack medicine people, Montelongo connects them with the County employees and gets a stone’s throw away.
“At least this way they feel a little more open and speak to the County employees and don’t have to worry about revealing something that they think could get them in trouble with the police officers,” he said . “I’m in the area as a safety option for County personnel because you never know.”
He said county employees felt their efforts benefited the homeless community.
“They issued several vaccines and started one person on hepatitis C treatment,” he said. “They were very happy with that. Even though nobody wanted to shelter, they were at least happy that people could start some treatments for some of the ailments they had.”
Montelongo said his partnership with the housing authority is his biggest challenge as the city’s homeless liaison officer as he learns a new position.
“Gabby Basua, Jessica Cerda and Anahi Carter helped me and taught me what I need to do to make this program successful,” he said. “They said if I want a job there, there’s a place for me as a housing specialist.”
He said they created three homeless Section 8 Vouchers with the help of Gabby Basua.
“The Section 8 voucher must remain within the city of Port Hueneme,” he said. “The problem and challenge we’re facing is that the city is pretty much built out and we’re limited to units that are available to house these individuals.”
He also said that payment standards depend on the size of the housing unit.
“If you have one person, you’re pretty much in a bedroom or a studio,” he said. “It is limited in the amount the Section 8 voucher pays compared to three people; they will be able to get a house, and the payment that the voucher covers will increase a little more.
Montelongo said his job is to screen the tenants as the homeless liaison officer and verify that they are actually homeless.
“You’d be surprised how many people will claim they’re homeless when they’re not and try to get around the whole process and get their name out there,” he said.
After posting, he said the next step is to follow up with the case officer.
“What I’ve learned is that follow-up with case workers is essential to ensure that individuals placed in housing are successful,” he said. “We could start putting everyone in housing, but if there’s no one to follow them up, make sure they’re doing what they’re supposed to do and help them through the whole process, they’re going to fail the whole process.” selection process and then back to the streets. We want to make sure they are successful and stay housed.”
He said income is also a Section 8 challenge as the voucher doesn’t cover everything.
“You’re still responsible for part of the rent, so some kind of income has to come in to pay for that,” he said. “There’s a formula I’m still learning, and the housing girls are still trying to teach me how it works. How much you pay for your rent depends on how much you earn and how much the payment standards allow you.
He noted that Section 8 Vouchers have an expiration date, and at the time they are issued, they have 120 days to find and be placed in a housing unit, otherwise the voucher will expire.
“Another challenge is down payment and credit,” he said. “A case I’m working on right now, the minimum down payment for the unit is $4,400, and many of these individuals don’t have that money. The landlords and property managers also ask for their credit scores. Many of these individuals do not have the best credit due to their situation. The housing association helps me navigate through these processes.”
Montelongo said he is currently helping someone who has been referred to him, and the person has a “little mom” with an autistic son who has been sleeping in their car and needs help.
“I’ve given directions to the officer on how to get some basic information, and I’ll act on it,” he said. “We started working with her and started looking for some permanent housing options. The obstacle we’ve run into is that we couldn’t find available units for her.”
He partnered with the United Way through the Landlord Engagement Program, which encourages landlords to participate, and they work with the person to find housing.
“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 photos and returned them to the Housing Authority. They approved the device. We are waiting for the completion of the rental application request. From there we go to an inspection and hopefully get the individual moved to the unit.
He noted that the process takes 4-5 months.
During Council remarks, Mayor Rich Rollins said the process requires a lot of patience.
“The city has entered the county’s Continuum of Care program; I have attended several meetings via Zoom and I wonder if you would also make yourself available to attend these meetings,” said Councilwoman Laura Hernandez.
“I attend those meetings, and they are on November 9,” Montelongo said.