2014-08-22 / Front Page

Samaritan Center saved, for now

Outpouring of support from community allows nonprofit to remain open
By Jessica E. Davis

Betty Eskey, executive director of the Simi Valley Samaritan Center, addresses the council during Monday's standing-room-only meeting at City Hall.JESSICA E. DAVIS/Acorn NewspapersBetty Eskey, executive director of the Simi Valley Samaritan Center, addresses the council during Monday's standing-room-only meeting at City Hall.JESSICA E. DAVIS/Acorn Newspapers A call to support the Simi Valley Samaritan Center has been answered—and then some.

Thanks to $34,000 in private pledges and another $15,000 each from Simi Valley Hospital and the City of Simi Valley, the nonprofit dedicated to serving the area’s homeless and near-homeless for 20 years will remain open through the foreseeable future, according to executive director Betty Eskey.

Still, a long-term financial solution for the center remains elusive.

“This money is stop-gap money. This is not a long-term fix,” Eskey said.

That hard truth didn’t dampen the mood Monday night inside Simi Valley City Council chambers, where residents who’d turned out in droves to support the center hugged and cheered following a 5-0 vote by the council to provide the Samaritan Center a one-time $15,000 grant out of its Community Projects Grant fund.

The fund was created in 2011 as part of the Waste Management’s deal with Simi Valley to expand the landfill. Under the deal, WM promises $150,000 each year to the city that can be used for projects that benefit community projects and programs.

For the past two years, the funds were given to the Free Clinic of Simi Valley and the Under One Roof Project.

The council’s vote came after 30 people spoke during public comment in support of the Samaritan Center, which last week announced it would close if it was unable to raise $60,000 by Sept. 1.

Mayor Bob Huber warned that the city’s contribution is just a small part of what is needed to keep the facility on Royal Avenue going into the future.

“I think it is important that we as a community step up and we step up on an ongoing basis. The true measure of a community is how it treats its most vulnerable citizens and we are stepping up big time,” Huber said.

Since word got out last week that the center could face closure without emergency funding, community members donated $34,000, Eskey said, a total that continues to rise.

During the council meeting, Simi Valley Hospital CEO Kim Milstien announced that the hospital would donate an additional $15,000. The council’s pledge put the total raised funds at $64,000 with a few days to spare.

Eskey said she’s thankful for the community and the city’s support, but wants to continue the momentum of giving, especially since the nonprofit has been dependent on grant funding in the past.

The center, which has an operating budget of $200,000, serves about 200 active clients who are on the brink of homelessness. The center originally opened as a place where homeless people could pick up food and clothing. It’s now evolved where a person seeking help must complete a full intake process, sign up as a client and work with a case manager to come up with a plan to improve their situation.

Read more in this week’s edition of the Simi Valley Acorn.

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