California Lutheran University's Student Newspaper Since 1961

The Echo

California Lutheran University's Student Newspaper Since 1961

The Echo

California Lutheran University's Student Newspaper Since 1961

The Echo

    Seeking Refuge: Ventura To Aid Homeless

    The cities of Ventura and Oxnard are in the process of opening permanent shelters to help accommodate the county’s rising homeless population.

    On Sept. 24, the Oxnard City Council approved the five-year homeless plan that would include a shelter open 24-hours per day, 7 days a week.

    “The exact location has not come to council yet, but I believe that it will be the armory in Oxnard,” said Carmen Ramirez, mayor pro tem for the city of Oxnard. “The problem that we have and that other cities are having is that people are afraid of having a shelter for the homeless in their neighborhood, understandably. It’s a problem, because people have to be somewhere.”

    While both cities have had previous shelters set up, each have come with their own set of difficulties, including being open only 12 hours per day during the winter months.

    Ventura Community Development Director Jeffrey Lambert said that this has been the most momentum the project has had in the 10 years he has been working with the city. Lambert said the momentum is coming from residents, religious leaders and local business owners “speak[ing] with one voice” and voicing their concerns.

    “The costs for a 55-person room are estimated to be about $1.2 million per year for the city of Ventura,” Lambert said.

    While the renovation costs come out to nearly $4 million, the county is giving the city of Ventura the building that will be transformed into the shelter. Negotiations are still ongoing for how the building will be paid for, but Lambert said the city of Ventura and the county each might be paying for half of the expenses.

    Lambert said the $4 million does not include the possible funding that could come from the state. The Homeless Emergency Aid Program addresses immediate homelessness challenges and would be one source of state aid.

    Last year, the costs to operate the shelter in the National Guard Armory in Oxnard came out to nearly $400,000, Ramirez said.

    Ventura County currently has HEAP available and is encouraging cities to apply for it. In order to be eligible for HEAP, cities must vote to declare an emergency shelter crisis. The city of Oxnard voted and unanimously passed to move forward with declaring an emergency shelter crisis.

    The operator that they will hire may find additional ways of helping pay for the costs of the building.

    Currently, they are going through the process of selecting an operator, who will help run the shelters.

    “The intentions are that the two shelters will be very similar,” Lambert said. “The two cities are in the process of selecting a single operator that would run both shelters.”

    The shelters will have showers, food and restrooms available. They will include resources like substance abuse, mental illness and employment support programs and some sort of medical care, Lambert said.

    “They are only going to be able to come in through a provider, it is not a walk-up shelter,” Lambert said. “Providers include the County of Behavioral Health, the Salvation Army or other social services.”

    An entry process will be created to assure the homeless are willing to take the responsibility of working through case management so they have the best chance at success, Lambert said.

    The city of Ventura aims to have the shelter open in October or November of 2019.

    Until they are ready to open their own shelters, Ventura and Oxnard will be using the National Guard Armory as shelter space for at least the next six months.

    The success rate of the shelter will be determined by the percentage of people that check in, transition into housing and employment and what percent find stability out of the shelter.

    “The shelter is an answer, but it is not the only answer,” Lambert said. “Our goal is that every city in Ventura County will take responsibility for its individual homeless population.”

    Vianca Castaneda-Correa