Diagnosing Homelessness | Quality Of Life in the City of San Buenaventura!

KVTA radio hosts (QOL) Quality of Life Ventura’s Paul White

By Lori Denman-Underhill

Nothing matters more in life than feeling safe in one’s own community. Knowing the government provides full and fair enforcement of the law, ensuring the health and safety of community residents is paramount.

The Activist group, Quality of Life Ventura, QOL, believes these rights are not supported by two entities – Ventura City Council and the Ventura Police Chief Ken Corney. QOL asserts an apparent lack of action which disregards safety for the law-abiding from homeless vagrants, some who are violent and many who commit crimes, repeatedly. The group, comprised of Ventura residents, are informing, educating and uniting in a mission to improve their QOL, Quality of Life!

QOL member Paul White, a 26-year Ventura resident now residing in Reno, Nevada was given radio airtime on KVTA with Tom Spence on June 5. The subject was homelessness in general and vagrancy in particular.

Spence opened the show in memory of 35-year-old Anthony Mele who was murdered in April at Aloha Restaurant in Ventura at the hands of a homeless vagrant and repeat criminal offender.

“There are many different views on what can be done,” said Spence. “Maybe the lack of what could have been done to protect him.”

Spence introduced Paul White, referring to him as a “loud voice” in QOL, Ventura. Spence asked White to explain his background, experience, and the circumstances of homelessness and vagrancy in Ventura.

The show focused entirely on Paul White’s opinion on these issues, explained and partially transcribed in the balance of this article.

White’s love for Ventura fuels his passion to address the cause of homelessness and vagrant crimes especially following the horrific and tragic death of Mr. Mele. Anthony Mele’s violent and untimely death hits close to home and is very personal; Paul White’s wife Val was Mele’s elementary school teacher in Ojai. Parenthetically, Anthony Mele’s 5-year-old who was sitting on her father’s lap when he was fatally stabbed in the neck by a vagrant is just now on the cusp of entering elementary school!

“QOL is in Ventura to explain that the diagnosis of the problem in the town has been wrong,” White said. “And if the diagnosis is incorrect, then the prescribed treatment  can’t heal or remedy the problem.”

“This is what the QOL perspective is, which includes many community members,” White explained. “We believe Corney and the city council see the people on the street and believe they lack resources. QOL vehemently disagrees. We see them as having an abundance of resources, including three unlimited, so called $300 per month general relief payments and about $200 worth of food stamps.”

White claims the majority of persons receiving food stamps sell or barter them for drugs and alcohol.

“It is also said the homeless, including the vagrants, are hungry,” White continued. “There are 10 food pantries and at least two of those places, including Ventura County Rescue Mission, serve two huge meals daily to homeless in Ventura.”

There is also the claim the homeless may not have enough beds, White said. QOL sees this problem differently and urges city council members to review the latest list of shelters found in another story by Citizens Journal. White said he called the shelters recently. He claims that many places had empty beds. Additionally, there are sober living homes for those who want to get off the street.

On the subject of insufficient available beds, White suggests reading about the service-resistant homeless; many of whom reject the idea and want nothing to do with offers to be around other people or to be told to be at a specific place or building. Further, White notes that Oxnard Commander Kevin Baysinger, with the city’s Homeless Liaison Officers, continually faces this situation.

 “QOL’s position is in agreement with a previous head of the homeless policy for Ventura,” White added. “This person said, ‘I agree with you, QOL. Everyone who is on the streets in Ventura is choosing to be on the street.”

White continued, “So, we have a wrong diagnosis from the Ventura police chief and city council, and a wholly unacceptable solution. For example, when the law was broken, and it was said the homeless just can’t help themselves, the city council passed a law in the Municipal Code, Chapter 1.050 that allows vagrants to commit up to 25 or more misdemeanors before they ever see the inside of a courtroom. You can read more about the conversation on this subject with Chief Corney in this interview.”

“Chapter 1.050 absolutely gives these ‘regular-offender, vagrant, homeless-by-choice’ people a provision, an extra allowance of misdemeanors, that law-abiding citizens do not get,” White explained. “And when they do go into court, if you are homeles, you have a choice of two additional courts the typical citizen of Ventura cannot access. There is a homeless court. Frequently, the judge forgives the vagrant for dozens of crimes. QOL believes these vagrants do not obey the law because they are not required to obey the law.

White says these persons stay on the streets, where “scamming is easy”,  as is drug use, drug dealing, and preying on the community.

White says many community members ask, “where are the legitimate homeless?” He said the legitimate homeless are “wrapped in the loving embrace of countless local programs that step in to help anyone who wants to help themselves. Those people, the ones wanting to help themselves, get a helping hand, are off the streets, and are rebuilding their lives.”

Illegally  parked RVs occupied by homeless people is another big issue in Ventura. White refers to them as “mobile crime units, soliciting sex and emptying trash and sewage in the streets.” White said he hopes Corney follows through with his plan to ask the City Attorney to draft a policy putting an end to the scourge of illegally parked RVs.

Another issue concerns convicted felons (from all over the county, not just Ventura) who are incarcerated in Oxnard and released from the jail at Victoria and Telephone Road. Local business owners say this issue makes Ventura a “dumping ground” and increases crime, vagrancy, and homelessness.

White makes clear that QOL Ventura has very different views on solutions, as compared to city council and Chief Corney. He urges them to make changes to provide citizens with safer communities.

QOL wants all people, homeless or not, to abide by the law and to be treated equally with no grant of special court systems. QOL Ventura also is firmly and explicitly against wet housing, a type of housing for chronic drug users and alcoholics that have no restriction on or rules about the person’s continued consumption of drugs or alcohol. QOL members believe free housing should not be given to homeless vagrants, who are not tested for drugs nor given any rules to follow.

“I do not know of one successful wet house in any city,” White said.

Paul White invites further, specific civic engagement on the quality of life in Ventura. His invitation is to a public forum that would include two members of QOL-Ventura, the city council with Mayor Andrews and with Chief Corney. KVTA will tape and air the forum discussion.

The question is not “what have we to lose” but rather, “what might we gain?” It’s time to attack the issues, in public and address the cause of homeless vagrancy and its solution!

Lori Denman-Underhill has been a professional journalist since 1996. She has worked as associate editor for the Los Angeles Daily News TODAY Magazines and has freelanced for LA Weekly, Surfline.com and more. She is now the Ventura reporter for Citizens Journal.

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