Veterans group helps get 94-year-old Ventura County woman, on verge of homelessness, into senior housing

KCLU N.P.R. | By Lance Orozco

Non-profit’s leaders say problem shows need to create a “Veterans Village” with emergency housing and social services.

This is a veterans day story that’s not about a veteran. It’s the story of a 94-year-old Ventura County woman who was twice married to veterans, and twice widowed. And then, after her daughter died, she nearly ended up on the streets.

“I lost my daughter. I was living in motels,” said Rose Burgess. “I was ready to give it up.”

But, some people rallied to help Burgess, to keep her from ending up homeless.

While she had been staying in a motel, she was running out of money. Not knowing where else to turn, she went to the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office’s Camarillo station.

Ventura County Sheriff’s Deputy Chris Dyer says when she came in, he had a huge challenge.

“She said something very profound to me. She said could you save my life?” Dyer told her that of course he would help.

They collected some money in the office to take care of her motel room for the next few nights, to buy some time. St. Vince de Paul of Ventura also helped. Then, he reached out to the Gold Coast Veterans Foundation.

Rafael Stoneman is the Foundation’s Outreach Coordinator. He knows how to weave through the region’s network of government and non-profit agencies to get help to those who need it. In the case of the 94-year-old woman, he worked with a number of groups to cut through red tape to get her into an affordable senior housing apartment.

Burgess says it’s hard to express the gratitude she has for everyone who helped her.

“Gold Coast is wonderful. They are angels,” said Burgess. “They saved my life.”

But, the key group which helped Rose now needs some help itself.

The Gold Coast Veterans Foundation is focused on getting those who have served in uniform, but are now homeless off the streets. It’s trying to find a spot where it can open a “Veterans Village”, with temporary housing and programs to help homeless veterans. It’s looking at a site just outside of Oxnard, as well as state youth correctional facility near Camarillo which is being closed.

“The greatest obstacle in our path right now is getting the proper zoning,” said Harris.

The village would have temporary housing, as well as access to a wide variety of social services.

Lance Orozco
Lance Orozco has been News Director of KCLU since 2001, providing award-winning coverage of some of the biggest news events in the region, including the Thomas and Woolsey brush fires, the deadly Montecito debris flow, the Borderline Bar and Grill attack, and Ronald Reagan’s funeral.

See additional stories by Lance Orozco on the Gold Coast Veterans Foundation