Nationally, the homeless population is growing and includes not only adults, but children and families as well.
In a local response, the city of Chula Vista and various agencies put on the first ever South Bay homeless connect event.
The South Bay Homeless Advocacy Coalition provided resources for homeless individuals and families at Parkway Recreation Center on Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Participants received access to on-site medical care, which included flu shots, social service benefits, substance abuse services, spiritual guidance, legal services, veteran services, employment services, lunch and haircuts.
Chula Vista Community Collaborative Executive Director Margarita Holguin, who facilitates the coalition, said she felt the event was successful for its first run.
“We learned a lot from today’s event,” Holguin said. “We’ll brainstorm to see if it’s been useful.”
The primary role of the coalition is to work with agencies in the South Bay to connect services to the people who need them, while increasing awareness of homelessness, identifying current resources and gaps in resource needs.
Approximately 85 homeless men, women and children attended the event, which also brought in nearly 100 volunteers.
The most recent data from the Regional Taskforce on the Homeless from January revealed that the city of Chula Vista has a total of 634 homeless, including those in shelters and on the street.
Statistics also show that there are a higher number of sheltered families, 93 percent, than unsheltered individual adults, 78 percent.
The majority of the homeless population in Chula Vista is between the ages of 40 and 49, 35 percent, followed by the 50-plus age group at 26 percent.
Chula Vista grants project coordinator Angelica Davis said the city was one of the hardest hit by foreclosures, forcing many families to live in their cars.
“In the last couple years we’ve found that people in Chula Vista don’t realize we have a homeless issue,” Davis said.
“It’s important for us to give them access to the services they need to get them back on their feet.”
Chula Vista Planned Parenthood clinician Carrie Rathburn and her staff provided health-related resources.
“We’re doing STD testing … today they get rapid HIV results available in 15 minutes,” she said. “We also give out condoms, birth control and morning after pills.”
Retired Mexico attorney Lalo Illabes volunteered with Legal Aid.
“We operate out of Father Joe’s Village,” Illabes said. “We cannot represent (homeless) them but we refer them to … SSI and community resources.”
Illabes said legal problems with homeless include social security, tickets from police, and warrants that can delay their ability to get a job.
Tom Clavell is the director for nonprofit South Bay Pioneers in Chula Vista.
“We’re an old fashioned half way house,” Clavell said. “Our program is really about being sober.”
The facility has housing for men and women, some dorm-style, some individual. It’s also long term and frequented by 1,000 people a week.
Another opportunity gave homeless men and women a chance to get cleaned up with interns from the Bellus Academy in National City.
Consuelo Olmedo, 35, got her hair cut and layered.
She is currently homeless and stays with friends.
“I heard about the event through my son’s school,” Olmedo said. “I was referred by an outreach for families in Imperial Beach.”
Olmedo said she came to the event to look for employment and affordable housing.
Ron Leake, 55, was born and raised in Chula Vista and camps out on Palomar Street by 7-11 and Starbucks with a small group.
He said it’s a good place because it’s safe, he can use the restroom and sometimes he and others are given day-old food.
“As long as you have hope, as long as you don’t lose your dream, you can keep going,” Leake said.
His dream is to own a mobile home and worked for a company like AAA.
“I wanna get back in the workforce,” Leake said. “I wanna do dispatch. I have the experience to manage something. I know how to look at a situation and diffuse it.”
Leake said the event was a great resource.
“This is great what’s happening here today,” he said. “I’m really glad the community is looking at these things.”
The South Bay Homeless Advocacy Coalition is comprised of local government and social service organizations, including the city of Chula Vista, Chula Vista Community Collaborative, South Bay Community Services, Interfaith Shelter Network, Chula Vista Elementary School District, the County of San Diego and others.