River Haven: A Brilliant Solution to California’s Homeless Crisis


River Haven. A hidden community of 23 tiny homes at the end of a long dirt road. River Haven is transitional housing
for Ventura’s homeless. Tenants pay 300 dollars a month
to rent a Tuff Shed and can stay for up to two years. They share one faucet
for filtered drinking water and a sink for doing dishes. They use Porta Potties. River Haven is off the grid. There’s a communal dome
where everyone can relax and chat with a gas stove an oven and three refrigerators. Food arrives once a week from local food banks with lots of fresh fruit and vegetables. The tiny homes have no electricity so everyone gets one small solar light
when they move in. The residents share chores but the glue that holds River Haven together Is John. “Okay.” He’s the case manager assigned by Turning Point the nonprofit that runs the place. His job? “Property manager, maintenance man,
I get supplies, I bring food share…” To do whatever necessary to make River Haven thrive. Today he’s installing solar panels with the help of two of River Haven’s residents. Soon every home will have a small refrigerator and an outlet to charge phones. Who goes first? They took a vote… “The elderly will get their solar panel up
and running first and then the women and then for the men
we’ll just put numbers in a hat and draw.” Progress is slow. Every few minutes someone
asks John to solve a problem. “That’s why I have to clarify…” He’s much more than just a handyman. He’s a social worker, “So Monday I will take all that stuff and turn it in.” An occasional referee, “As of right now she fears for her safety and doesn’t want to come out here.” And most importantly, a friend. “I care about each and every one of them. “I don’t see a homeless person. I don’t see someone with schizophrenia or bipolar. I see the person in front of me who has had probably a very, very hard life. And my heart goes out to him. It doesn’t hurt if they like football. “No, they play the Giants next week.” Today is Monday and they’re opening a nearby
shower to anyone who shows up. A local church serves lunch and a mobile clinic gives flu shots and first aid. Four people can shower at a time for up to 15 minutes. The county provides towels and a place to store their stuff. John sets up shop and starts solving problems. “So we’re going to call them and find out who your new primary care doctor is.” When they’re done, he pitches in to scrub the stalls, then hauls in the hose. The faucet’s a quarter mile away. But his day is far from over. Reggie,
River Haven’s newest resident, is moving in today “This is nice!” and John needs to show him around. “And this is our phone charging station.” “We’re just going to get you a little bit of
food for your crate.” “Tomato stuff.” “Shells or noodles or both?” [Laughter] “Now, let me get you a lantern.” “I just appreciate this, Bro.
You don’t know, Man. Thank you.” ‘You’re welcome, Reggie.” “I just want to introduce you to Reggie.” And then, long after quitting time, “Let’s see what we got. Michael…” John delivers everybody’s mail. “All right, that’s it.” John seems extraordinarily content. “I like to see the flames from space!” Surrounded by his fiancée, his family, “Wow, I can’t believe L.A. – it’s 26 to 3!” and a bewildering array of rescued pets. But it wasn’t always that way. “Fr about nine years I had a very abusive stepfather.” with disastrous consequences. “I would imagine a tumultuous childhood caused me to get lost in drugs for a while.” leading to four felony convictions. What turned things around? “I would say my grandparents. My grandfather. He was the antithesis to the abusive stepfather, someone to look up to. A positive role model. and more than anything, his mom. He still lives with her while he pays off student loans. She never stopped believing in him. “He’s my son. I love him.” “I knew he’d do good one of these days.” “We had some rough times but we got over it.” “I just kept praying and hoping.” “Just praying.” It worked. He now has a master’s degree in clinical
psychology. And a life-long love affair with football. “Ever since I can remember it meant a day of family, hanging out, BBQing, yelling at the TV, just everybody getting together
and taking it easy on a Sunday.” “Patriot’s doing down, down, down, down! ” Laughter] John hasn’t just turned his own life around. He’s done the same for River Haven. This is more than just a temporary place to stay. It’s home. With lots of cats ” Coming out? Come on!” and a friendly dog or two. Everyone proudly decorates. Thanksgiving’s just around the corner. And despite the limited space, most of the tiny homes are spotlessly clean. They cultivate gardens, hauling water from the sink. It’s a community. A place to celebrate the holidays. At River Haven,
if you’re not around, “Nope. Not here.” you’ll be missed. And that makes all the difference. ‘It’s good to see you. Come on by anytime.” “Hey Mike!” “I got some mail for ya!”

4 thoughts on “River Haven: A Brilliant Solution to California’s Homeless Crisis

  1. Amazing… imagine the stories that get exchanged in a place like that. John seems like a terrific guy, too bad he’s a Cowboys fan.

  2. Imagine what would happen if the wealthy classes paid taxes to fund proper services instead of this 3rd-world level living conditions. Other developed countries have solved these problems and don't have nearly the same homlessness issues we do. These are noble solutions with noble people but they're still embarrassing to have to do this in the "richest country on the planet".

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