Thursday, June 14, 2018

By Chris Frost

Special to the Tri County Sentry



One of the more ambitious goals during the June 5, Oxnard City Council budget workshop was the establishment of a year-round homeless shelter in the city. 


Interim City Manager Scott Whitney said the city would fund approximately $500,000 annually for operational costs.


He said the county is willing to match funding with cities that are willing to address the homelessness issue.


The latest estimate is there are between 450-500 people who are homeless and unsheltered in the city.

Mark Alvarado with the Oxnard Housing Department told the council they have embarked on a plan that will change the game, regarding homelessness.


"The core of the five-year plan to address homelessness is the shelter, but it's not just the shelter," he said. "It's also a navigation center, an outreach center; it's a place where they will provide social services, mental health services, medical referrals, workforce training opportunities, and education, as well as lodging hygiene and nutrition. The goal is to build a one-stop shop, so our homeless will have an option. Right now, there is no option."


He said they have been trying to enforce their way out of the issue, and that is not the right approach.

Alvarado said they would use the Measure O funding on the table for leverage.


"Where the county has stepped up to help match that, so we can put together a package," he said. "We're looking at building or acquiring a facility anywhere from 10,000 square feet or a little bit more so that we can have adequate space to house a minimum of 150 beds."


Alvarado called it an ambitious task.


"It's what we have to do," he said. "We need to provide more options and some more trust in what we're trying to do."


He said they also need to help the business community.


"We hear it from all angles," he said. 


The key to the plan, he said, is even if they build the hub, the other piece of the idea is the comprehensive outreach and working with the service providers.


"So we use that Federal money, the HUD (US Department of Housing and Urban Development) money, the ESG (Emergency Solutions Grant) money to help do the outreach," he said.


Alvarado said they would also work with the mental health and the police departments to build relationships with chronic homeless individuals.


"So they will be able to find shelter and use the navigation center and develop a pathway," he said. "On the opposite end is the housing, the bridge housing or the sustainable housing opportunities that is all part of the five-year plan."


Councilman Bert Perello asked if Alvardo had a time frame for the council to follow.


"As part of the five-year plan, there is an evaluation piece associated with that," he said. "The five-year plan will be revisited every year to be refreshed, reviewed, and see if there is anything that needs repair.

He said it is the best way to move forward.


"We're using the five-year plan as an evaluation tool simultaneously to give you something to chew on annually," Alvarado said. 


The measure, he said, is to get the homeless off the streets and get them the care they need.

"It's the unsheltered we're trying to get off the street," he said. 


Mayor Tim Flynn complimented the housing department and Alvarado.


"They've made a lot of progress," he said. "There is a lot of work that has been done."


He said the field trip the city took to San Diego left everyone with a vision of what they can and should do.

"There are many community partners that willing to assist Oxnard with this effort," he said. 


Mayor Pro Tem Carmen Ramirez called it great work.


"We attended the lunch that Peggy Rivera from the homeless commission put together and it was very encouraging to see so many people," she said. 


During public comments, Pat Brown said she lives on the east side of downtown Oxnard.


"The homeless people torture us," she said. "They pile in all their crap so we can't get in and out of the gates (in our community). They try and scare our little kids when they come home from school on a bus; they (the kids) can't get out of the bus because all these people crowd around our entrance."


She said they need the gate for protection.


"We find them inside the gate at night trying to find a place to sleep," Brown said. "They hop into the big trash dumpsters, and they poop in there."