Housing Director Arturo Casillas
Thursday, July 26, 2018

By Chris Frost

Special to the Tri County Sentry

OXNARD—The Oxnard City Council authorized Mayor Tim Flynn to sign a letter of intent expressing the city's support to partner with the city and county of Ventura on the development and operations of a year-round homeless shelter and directed the city manager and housing director to work with Ventura County to develop an agreement, July 24.

Both cities and Ventura County, have set forth several preliminary agreements that will point and guide the next steps. 

Housing Director Arturo Casillas said homelessness needs a comprehensive approach to make a difference, and he has confidence the police department has the aggressive leadership to take on the challenge.

“They can carry out these actions,” he said.

For the last two decades, he said the City of Oxnard and the city and county of Ventura have partnered to address homelessness, and all three entities have been working on a tri-party agreement to develop two year-round homeless shelters, one in each city, since March 2018.

“Oxnard’s goal is to approve a year-round shelter, preferably in a state-approved SB-2 emergency shelter overlay zone that permits that purpose,” he said. “The facility will evolve into a full-service homeless shelter/navigation center with comprehensive wrap-around services. The operation will apply a no-walk-in model by using a coordinated entry system and work closely with the Oxnard P.D., local service providers, and stakeholders.”

He said the three entities would work together and secure proposals from qualified shelter operators through a request for proposal (RFP) process which is already in operation.

“Each city will have a separate agreement with Ventura County and also with a shelter operator, selected by the city,” Casillas said.

The current funding for the two proposed shelters is $1 million from Measure O for acquisition, he said, plus $200,000 from CDBG (Community Development Block Grant)-Public Services for building modifications or purchases, and $500,000 from Measure O for operations.

“Ventura County will provide a cash match, not to exceed the amount committed by the city,” he said. “Other possible future funding are state grants, local private foundations and fundraising campaigns which have been successful in the past.”

He said the upcoming vital dates are Aug. 15, for RFPs (Requests for Proposals) for non-profit operators, and they will select an operator in the next 30 days.

“Oct. 1 is being looked at as either having a building in place or look for an alternative for a fall weather shelter, plan B,” he said. “Dec.2018 is the target date for opening a year-round shelter.”

H.U.D. (Department of Housing and Urban Development) and the state recommends a regional approach, Casillas said, and is considered a best practice.

“We agree with that philosophy, as well as the continuum of care, which is a county-wide organization that we participate with,” he said. “The coordinated entry system for a year-round shelter/navigation center sits at the core of the multi-year strategy to prevent and reduce homelessness.”

During public comments, Walter Snyder said the homelessness issue needs a church, private and business plan, plus the schools and junior college.

“Then you have the homeless people who can have their input,” he said. “Homeless people have the same desires that we have, they have social needs, and they want training. There may be one percent that does things wrong.”

He suggested getting the mission involved because they are successful with people who are homeless, plus the churches.

“A lot of the churches are feeding the homeless people once a month,” he said.

Pat Brown hopes that Ventura city and county are serious enough to build places for the homeless.

“Being in over the winter months isn’t helping any,” she said. “We still have them all over the parks, all over the town, and I think one of the problems we do have is having the shelter we do have between Sixth and Seventh streets on Meta is in the wrong spot. It’s the magnet, and then they go from there a couple of blocks, and they are right in the middle of Oxnard Boulevard in downtown. We need to have these shelters away from the downtown area, out far enough that they are not going to walk all that distance to get to downtown to start causing problems.”

Councilman Bert Perello said the staff report revealed the county support would possibly leverage up to 100 percent of the recently approved $1.5 million of Measure O Funds being made available by the City of Oxnard to address homelessness.

“The council has already approved this,” he said. “We’re not asking for new funds.”

Councilman Oscar Madrigal said the plan is a significant first step.

“Now, hopefully, we can find a place for a year-round shelter, so we don’t have to do a foul weather shelter this year,” he said. 

Mayor Pro Tem Carmen Ramirez said there is much work to do.

“Let’s look out for each other and our businesses,” she said. “Any property owners, search your soul and help your community out.”