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Oxnard Housing Director Emilio Ramirez (Photo by Chris Frost)
Thursday, November 21, 2019

By Chris Frost


Oxnard— On a 5-2 vote, the Oxnard City Council approved the lease for the Oxnard Navigation Center at 1258 Saviers Road.


The location will have 110 beds and serve as a year-round 24-hour shelter with shower and laundry facilities. Additionally, the navigation center will have meal and pet services, housing navigation, and case management services for Oxnard's homeless population.


The location will cost $1.517 million over its five-year lease term and include costs for base rent, taxes, and insurance.   


The city will immediately start a community outreach program and enter discussions with the affected neighborhoods over the next 90 days. The city has an escape clause over that time if problems arise.


The item was packed with high tension as several residents spoke against locating a shelter in the five points area, which they said has a problem with crime and vagrancy. The item brought the cry of speakers saying ‘not in my backyard’ to the diais.


Housing Director Emilio Ramirez reported to the council and said the current site at 351 South K Street offers approximately 10,000 square feet of space and is not improved to the level a navigation center should be.


"The structure itself is old and in need of substantial improvements," he said. "We currently run the shelter with exterior showers and bathroom facilities in trailers because the interior is not adequate."


The shelter has been in use for approximately 14 years and was a winter warming shelter and not a year-round shelter.


"The site was identified and approved as a temporary location for the Oxnard Navigation Center and offers homeless services, and the city housing department operated it since Jan. 2019," he said.  


In 2018, Ventura County, along with the City of Ventura and the City of Oxnard competitively procured Mercy House for each of the two homeless facilities in the cities of Oxnard and Ventura," he said. "Now, Mercy operates the Oxnard Navigation Center providing 110 shelter beds for men and women."


Mercy House is a professional non-profit homeless service provider from Santa Ana.


"Mercy provides housing and comprehensive services for a variety of homeless populations," he said.  That includes families, adult men and women, mothers and their children, people living with HIV and AIDS, individuals overcoming substance addictions, and some who are physically and mentally disabled."


Mercy started running the Oxnard Navigation Center in July 2019.


The current site was a temporary location while the city located a permanent center.


"The current site is in the Oxnard Airport runway protected zone," he said. "It has been that way the entire time we've been operating the shelter as this function. Whether it was the winter warning shelter and for the past six months, it has been in that similar operation and has always been within that runway protection zone."


Ventura County runs the Oxnard Airport, and they want the city to terminate the navigation center's operation because it is located in the zone.


Continuing to run the navigation center on K Street is inhibiting our ability to receive funding from Ventura County, who has been a significant partner with the city.


"Neither the County of Ventura or the City of Oxnard have invested in any comprehensive site improvements," he said. "The staff indicate that the cost to improve the K Street site will be substantially greater than the cost to improve the site on Saviers."   


The K Street site is old, he said, and it needs improvements that are over-and-above improvements at a newer place.


If Ventura County pulls its funding, the city could potentially lose $5 million.


"The estimate to improve the K Street site is greater than $1 million," Ramirez said. 


The city had a shelter site search committee in 2017, he said, which included members of the city council, including Mayor Tim Flynn, community members, city staff, and the housing department.


"That committee met over the course of a year, and the shelter committee suggested various sites," he said. "All of them were deemed not viable."


The committee disbanded in June 2018, after the Oxnard Housing Department proposed the National Guard Armory as a temporary location for the navigation center," he said. "It had been underused as the winter warming center long term."


This story will continue on Nov. 29.

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