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After 7+ years on the streets, nonprofit group gets Ventura County veteran into his own apartment

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KCLU
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U.S. Army veteran Mikey Simpson checks out the view from the kitchen of his new Camarillo apartment. It's the first home the 61-year-old man has had in the last seven years, after living on the streets of the community.

Gold Coast Veterans Foundation continues to connect the county's veterans with housing and social services.

This is a big day for Mikey Simpson. The Army veteran is showing us around his Camarillo apartment. The 61-year-old man has been living on the streets for more than seven years.

"In the bushes, in the train tracks...wherever he could," said Rafael Stoneman.

Stoneman and his dog Leo are the Mobile Veterans Outreach Team for Ventura County’s Gold Coast Veterans Foundation.

"It's a whole team of organizations and people who are coming together to get Mikey off the streets, and into an apartment," said Stoneman.

He said this day was a long time in coming. Simpson didn’t want services, even though he’s living with a disability. He lost one of his legs. Still, it wasn’t easy to convince Simpson to accept help, especially because he didn’t want to leave Camarillo.

Stoneman said if Mikey had been willing to go to other nearby communities, they could have gotten him into housing quicker, but he wanted to be near family and friends in Camarillo.

The Gold Coast Foundation not only got Simpson into an affordable senior housing unit in Camarillo, it helped him get thousands of dollars in unclaimed back social security benefits.

Cassandra Villareal is an outreach case manager at Gold Coast who was part of the team helping Simpson.

"There's a lot of moving parts," said Villareal. "There was a lot of different hands involved in getting to today."

The more than 15-year-old non-profit provides a variety of services for Ventura County veterans, as well as helping them navigate government bureaucracy to get help.

Simpson admits he’s still getting used to the idea of the one-bedroom apartment he now calls home.

"Down by the railroad tracks, I had a 20 by 30 foot tarp, which was quite big," said Simpson.

He admits one of the strangest things is something most of us take for granted. He now has a safe, and secure place to store his possessions.

This is a little victory for the non-profit. It has a much larger project in the works. It’s hoping to build a “Veterans Village” to help get homeless veterans off the streets, and into safe short and long term housing where they can also receive needed social services.

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.