By Chris Frost
Oxnard-- Members of the community gathered at Plaza Park, Jan 12, as Oxnard Together, a joint effort between Oxnard Police Chief Scott Whitney and local faith leaders worked together to create an inspiring day and motivate people to make the city a better place.
Participants handed out cards that offered avenues to help the homeless. Each faith group has offered their help and is committed to helping someone homeless or facing homelessness soon.
The large crowd was promised a peaceful and inspiring event, and the team delivered on that promise in a big way.
Before the event began, Rabbi Dov Muchnik from Chabad Oxnard said Oxnard Together is an exceptional event for the city.
"Even though we are one city, there are so many different pockets of individuals that gather with their own kind," he said. "This an event that shows we are all coming together, and we are concerned about those in need and less fortunate than we are, whether they are homeless or having a hard time putting food on the table."
He felt touched by seeing all the humanity in people.
"Chabad is not a homeless shelter, but we try to help people in any way we can," Muchnik said. "If somebody wants help, there is help available. They need to want help and be willing to go along with the program. We can't force anyone to want to get better, but if they want to get better, there are resources out there."
Pastor Melissa Campbell-Langdell from All Saints' Episcopal Church loves sharing in the event and working together with different faith communities in the city.
"Especially if we can help the homeless," she said. "That's important to us as a church. As a church, we provide food, and we try to provide some clothing and connect with other resources so they can get into housing or get other basic needs. We also help them figure out what their long term goals are, and I have helped pay for identification."
Host Adam Lopez said they came together to bring solutions to the problems in Oxnard.
"It's the first step in the right direction," he said. "There are a lot of different issues in the city, and homelessness is going to be our first objective."
Pastor Jaime Garcia said Oxnard Together is an awesome event.
"They said something that hits our heart," he said. "We can all help by doing what we can. We can't change the world, but we can change a little portion of the world."
City Manager Alex Nguyen thanked the crowd for coming to the event, and he was pleased to see so many faces.
"It's a serious day today, and it is encouraging and inspiring to see this crowd," he said. "One of the things we will be focusing on today is a discussion about the homeless crisis."
Nguyen remains passionate about helping the homeless and is focused on addressing the challenge.
"I am also angry about the situation," he said. "It is heartbreaking and unspeakable in this nation and state that we have this crisis. I am mostly frustrated by the State of California."
He acknowledged Chief Scott Whitney who has the wisdom and heart to organize the event.
"I am grateful to have his leadership and the way he conducts this department so that we can take care of law enforcement with some compassion," Nguyen said. "It takes a great leader to bring people together outside the realm of traditional police enforcement."
Whitney showed everyone the cards handed out, and he said if you want to do something tangible about the homeless problem, take the card and text him a message with their email.
"We will contact you," he said. "I am so excited to be here today because we have a unique opportunity to listen to people with different beliefs. I have been blessed to work with every speaker that will be on the stage today. I've learned from every one of them."
He offered two key points: have faith in the future and know that we are stronger together.
"We have our share of challenges in the city," he said. "On the first Sunday of 2020, we had a drug overdose around noon. That person was revived. Two hours later, officers responded to a home in South Oxnard regarding a four-year-old that was not breathing. That young boy died because of that horrible accident. On the same day, at 10 p.m., officers responded to a call in East Oxnard because of shots fired. There was a young male, the shooting victim, who died in surgery. This all happened in one day, and every big city has these challenges."
Whitney said people in Oxnard would not give up and complain.
"We roll up our sleeves, look for partners, and look for something to do," he said. "I believe you are here because you want to do something. We have an opportunity today to do something positive."
Joan Lucas spoke to the crowd, and she was at one point living on the streets.
"It was terrible," she said. "I had searched for housing in every county from here to the Mexican border, and no one wanted an old lady in her 80s. I do work, I wrote a youngsters book, and it will be on Amazon next week."
She outlived her family, friends, and money.
Muchnik blessed the crowd and called it a beautiful day.
"A Rabbi, a priest and a Muslim Cleric walk into a bar," he said as the crowd laughed. "The bartender looked up and said: what is this? A joke?"
He thanked Whitney and applauds him for getting all the faith leaders together for such an important event.
"We are blessed to live in this wonderful city, this beautiful state, and this beautiful country. God bless America."
He asked why God created an unbalanced world and said it didn't seem fair.
"King David writes in Psalms, let the world sit before God," Muchnik said. "In the Jewish tradition, called the Midrash, King David was complaining to God, and he said: Why did you create inequality in the world?"
David wanted a world where all were equal.
"God replied with the second half of that verse in Psalms," Muchnik said. "If everyone had all their needs, how would kindness fit into the world? I made an unbalanced world, so the rich can help the poor, the wise can teach the dull, and the joyful can cheer those who are sad."
George Miller said the event was wonderful.
"I hope it's a spark that we need, right now," he said. "It should have been a little more specific to structure people's responses, I think."
To join the effort, text your name and email address to 805-342-8292, and anyway you'd like to help.