Ventura County foundation lifting up vulnerable veterans, helping them out of homelessness

VENTURA, Calif. (KABC) -- The Gold Coast Veterans Foundation in Ventura County has an ambitious goal: to end homelessness and anything else that causes suffering to our vets.

Founded in 2006 as a way for the 45,000 military veterans in Ventura County to learn about benefits all in one place, Gold Coast Veterans Foundation now offer assistance with career resources, financial coaching or navigating government bureaucracy for proper benefits for veterans.

"One of the things we're really good at is catching those veterans who are falling through the cracks...you know the ones who are most in need. Those that are either homeless or on the verge of homelessness or need that extra little bit of help that they just can't seem to find for themselves," said Dennis Murphy/Board Chairman, Gold Coast Veterans Foundation.

Getting veterans help and off the streets can't always be done from a desk. In 2019, Gold Coast Veterans created the Mobile Veteran Outreach Program to seek out homeless veterans. The program is led by Army ceteran Rafael Stoneman.

"They see him and they're like, 'Wow! Look at him! What kind of dog is he?' and so they immediately pop out of whatever story they're carrying that they can't jump out of," said Stoneman.

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Stoneman is formerly homeless and is acutely aware of what homeless veterans need. Now, university-certified in psychology and substance abuse disorders, his Mobile Outreach Program maintains a 90% engagement rate.

There is still limited bridge housing capable of addressing the needs of homeless veterans in Ventura County. To meet that need, Veterans Village is under development by Gold Coast Veterans Foundation. Property has been identified and plans are in place to provide peer based housing solutions and integrated care for low-income veterans.

"By putting the counselors on the property, living right with the veterans, among the veterans, we're going to bring the services to them 24/7 and that's probably why it's going to succeed," said Bob Harris/Ex. Dir. Gold Coast Veterans Foundation.

"Not only will we be able to repeat this over and over, we think this is a model that could be repeated over and over across the country," said Murphy.

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