A California homeless shelter has 100 new beds this week thanks to donations from cannabis dispensaries in the Ventura County community. A regional homeless center opened in a former National Guard Armory in Oxnard last month and had begun to serve people seeking a hot meal, social services, and shelter from California’s deluge of winter rains. But when Police Chief Andrew Salinas of the neighboring town of Port Hueneme learned that people were sleeping on air mattresses on the floor of the shelter, he jumped into action.
“I reached out to our cannabis dispensaries and within two days we had over $25,000 in donations towards that effort,” said Salinas. “Then I reached out to our city manager who reminded me that we had a community benefit fund which supplied the other $10,000.”
After the money had been raised, city officials purchased the beds for the shelter. The five licensed dispensaries in Port Hueneme that contributed to the cause were Emerald Perspective, Hueneme Patient Collective, SafePort, Tradecraft Ventures, and SkunkMasters, which donated $17,500 of the $25,000 raised. Mark Tatum, the co-founder of SkunkMasters, said that the dispensary voluntarily contributes 1 percent of sales to the city for community programs and asked Port Hueneme officials to dedicate the funds to the fundraising effort.
“First thought was this is an awesome opportunity to help a lot of people,” said Tatum.
“We saw a major, major benefit of helping the homeless, and it touched base with a lot of our staff members,” Tatum said at the shelter as the new beds were being delivered on Monday. “So we decided to make a pretty substantial donation towards supplying these beds and giving these people a little peace of mind and a place to rest their head at night.”
Linda Bassett, 70, has been staying at the shelter and is grateful for the new beds because she found it difficult without them.
“I think they’re wonderful,” said Bassett. “It’s so much easier to get into the bottom of a bunk bed than an air mattress that’s on the floor.”
Michael Moyer, who has been homeless for five years, agreed with Bassett’s assessment of the shelter’s new amenities.
“This is awesome,” Moyer said. “This is a gift that nobody dreamed of. It is going to make people a lot more comfortable.”
“To be in an environment where you are warm and you aren’t outside, it is just a lot easier on the mind,” he added.
Law Enforcement, Dispensaries, and Union Workers Collaborate
The new beds were assembled by members of Southwest Carpenters Local 805 after Salinas contacted Mercy Urrea, the regional manager of the union. He said that he expected perhaps five to 10 members to help out but about 30 showed up.
“It’s good for the soul,” Urrea said. “Giving these homeless people a place to sleep that’s warm at night.”
“We’re pretty active in the community,” he added.
Moyer said that he appreciated the contribution from the union crew.
“For these guys to take time out of their week, I know the construction world is tough, and it has been awesome that they could put this together,” said Moyer.
The licensed dispensaries in Port Hueneme are required to make contributions to the local community. Salinas said that the new beds are an example of the community benefits that legal cannabis can provide.
“This really matched what this purpose was for to donate towards our community and being that our homeless problem was our biggest number one problem we had in our community, I reached out to all of them and they responded without hesitation,” the chief said.