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Non-Profit Making A Big Difference For Homeless In Ventura County


Life was good for Colleen Abbinanti of Simi Valley. The single mom had a good job, a nice place to live, and was involved with her son’s school. Then, suddenly, it all fell apart.

In 2007, as the recession hit, she lost her job with a construction company, and couldn’t find a new one. She was afraid to ask her family for help, even though she knew she was going to lose her home. Before she knew it, she was homeless. Abbinanti says it’s a position no one thinks will happen to them.

She admits when she used to pass people who were homeless, she had the same attitude many people do, which was to think they should go get jobs. Realizing she was losing her home, she gave custody of her son to her ex-husband. She was soon living in her car, and thanks to some of the homeless people she met on the streets, was introduced to drugs.

Abbinanti needed help, and got some from a Ventura County based non-profit group, the Simi Valley based Samaritan Center.

Betty Eskey is Executive Director of the Samaritan Center, which reported some 7000 visits for services last year. Eskey says there are an estimated 300 to 400 homeless in Simi Valley on any given day. Many of them are older people who are especially at risk during the winter months. Eskey says the non-profit survives on donations from the public, from churches, a federal grant, and money from some foundations.

This Sunday, the United Methodist Church in Simi Valley is hosting a 4 p.m. benefit concert to try to help the Center financially. Eskey says while food and clothing donations are important, it’s a constant struggle to raise the money to keep the doors open.

In Colleen Abbinanti’s case, she visited the Samaritan Center for things like food, and showers for nearly two years before she finally decided she needed to get off the streets. The Samaritan Center got her into a rehabilitation program, and helped her get a job. The Samaritan Center’s Betty Eskey says being able to get people off the streets, and back into society is their dream, and Colleen is a big success story.

Abbinanti says she’s reconnected with her family, has a nice place to live, and a great job. She feels like she has a new life.

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. 
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