By Chris Frost
Oxnard— In his report to the Oxnard City Council, Jani. 7, City Manager Alex Nguyen announced that he terminated the agreement for the proposed Oxnard Navigation Center and will look for a different location.
The center planned for 1258 Saviers Road in the Five Points area brought tremendous community concern as people lined up to express their dissatisfaction about the location. The majority of the people at the recent town hall meeting told horror stories about the area, and placing the navigation center in the middle of that neighborhood will add to an already challenging problem with vagrancy and density.
Nguyen told the council to pursue another location where the city can have a more comprehensive set of solutions.
"The effort at Saviers was not a bad effort," he said. "It was rushed in a sense that it was a real estate rental situation on the table, so we did not entirely control the timeline."
In the end, he said that location would have meant a replacement shelter, so there would not be a net gain with the city's overall homeless policy.
"Our goal is to actually solve homelessness," he said. "What I directed staff to do is to find a location we can not only have a shelter, but we can also have co-located with it, facilities for social work, health, and administrative offices. In addition to that, housing first units and permanent supportive housing units. In that end, that outcome would be a much better solution than what we were proposing at Saviers."
He pointed out that the city needs a shelter, but it will also need housing first facilities across the city.
"A shelter alone does not solve homelessness," he said. "It is a crucial part of that process, but a shelter alone does not solve homelessness. Anywhere you site a shelter, as we have seen, and will continue to see, there will be neighborly opposition.
In San Francisco, Nguyen said that the city needs a navigation center in every supervisors' district because the homeless problem is so significant.
"San Francisco is a bastion of liberal progressivism," he said. "Every neighborhood is opposed to it there. The first navigation center they tried to site near the baseball park, their mayor got screamed out of the room. We understand that while everybody wants us to get homeless people off our streets, nobody wants homeless people housed anywhere near them."
Nguyen was frustrated but said it's going to be difficult anywhere the city goes.
"We are going to have to site housing first facilities," he said. "That's the only way we are going to end this crisis and stop putting millions of dollars into playing whack-a-mole and chasing homeless groups of individuals from one neighborhood into another."
Nguyen gets plenty of emails from residents and businesses, but they ask him to do inappropriate things.
"We all have a responsibility to deal with this, and we can't put 100 percent of the people on the people who are homeless," he said. "When we are trying to site a homeless shelter or housing first units, people need to understand that we are trying to solve the problem. We have to stop treating it like we are trying to site a leper colony."
Nguyen said the city would take the time it needs to do all the community it needs, and a robust search will begin right away.