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South Coast Veterans Group Announces Plans To Build Village Focused On Helping Homeless Veterans

(Gold Coast Veterans Foundation illustration)
An artist's illustration of the Gold Coast Veterans Foundation's planned Veterans Village on the west side of Ventura

The pandemic has been rough on lots of us, but for Army veteran Todd Gessel, it’s been especially tough. Gessel lost his job and his housing, so the streets of Ventura County became his home.  He ended up living in his truck.

Now, thanks to a non-profit veteran group in Ventura County, Gessel is getting help from a fellow veteran who knows all too well what it’s like to be homeless.

Rafael Stoneman literally patrols places in Ventura County that homeless veterans frequent.  He’s become sort of a “fixer” for the Gold Coast Veterans Foundation, connecting those who need help with support.

The foundation has become a vital resource for some of Ventura County’s veterans.

Bob Harris is Executive Director of the Gold Coast Veterans Foundation.  He says during the pandemic, they’ve been able to help with housing, and other issues which were literally life or death issues for some of the veterans.

The foundation has launched an ambitious project to build a center in the county which can provide housing and services to help get veterans back on their feet.  It wants to create what will be known as a “Veterans Village” on the west side of Ventura, which will have housing for homeless veterans as well as resources to help them get their lives back on track.

The foundation is hoping to get the village up and running in phases, and depending on fundraising fully built out in around 18 months.

Gessel says Stoneman, and the Foundation helped get him off the streets and into housing, something the 58-year-old veteran of the first Gulf War says he couldn’t have done on his own.

The foundation is hoping that adding the unique center can allow it to have many more success stories in the future. 

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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