What should have been included about Harbor Church in Ventura

By Anonymous 01/17/2013

RE: “Stuck between a rock and a hard place,” News, 12/20

The author of this article could have done a better job to tell a more accurate and complete story. The story could be improved by including the following pieces of information:

A) There are stats (available on Harbor’s own website) that state how many homeless are coming to the church each day. Moreover, research shows what percentage of these folks are mentally unstable. The vast majority of the people coming to the church are walking there through the neighborhood — past little children on their way to school, at the play park, etc. It’s therefore easy to estimate the number of mentally unstable people who are in close proximity to small children. I think it works out to be about 65 unstable folks per day.

B) The fact that the CUP (conditional use permit) does not cover any homeless service or soup kitchen period — it only covers a bible study (WOMEN’s group) and day care. The site is zoned as residential. If the church had requested to have a soup kitchen homeless program, that would have required a permitting process to be triggered with public hearings. That never happened. The city never allowed these uses for good reason — no one in his or her right mind would think that siting a homeless soup kitchen next to an elementary school, a day care, a toddler play park in a residential community packed full of little kids would be a good idea.

C) There are a lot of break-ins and crime in our community now that did not occur before the church started its homeless program in 2009. (*1. See — Editor’s note) This program has made what was a fairly safe community extremely vulnerable to crime; the residents can’t even tell if someone is stalking their homes to break in when they leave or if someone is just going through their garbage in search of a can. Really, if you had kids, would you want to be afraid of walking back into your house to criminals robbing your home in the middle of the day? Well, my neighbors were broke into in the middle of the day and they had kids. What would have happened if that had been a pregnant mom or a mom holding her baby as she opened the door to go back into her house and robbers were there? It makes it very difficult to keep a watch on activity in the neighborhood with all these vagrants coming through. It advertises our neighborhood as a target and has disproportionally and unfairly targeted our neighborhood.

D) There are services at the armory and other locations that cause a corridor to form through our community in order for the homeless to walk to this church’s location — these routes should have been mapped and included in the story.
E) There are much more appropriate places where this church’s program to be sited at. For example, next to the armory, in the commercial-industrial area off Market Street where NO children live, play or attend school. (*2. See — Editor’s note)

F) The church doesn’t have live scan, can’t have live scan, and so sex offenders can slip through the very large cracks in its so-called screening system in time to harm a child coming from or going to the elementary school, toddler play park or day care. Really, if I were a sexual predator, I can’t imagine a more ideal location to try and nab a kid then Harbor Church. How hard would it be for someone like that to get a fake ID and hang out at Harbor, and even if someone got turned away it would be very easy to blend in with the rest of the homeless parading through the neighborhood.

G) The legal argument the church is making doesn’t hold water. Zoning requirements have been continually upheld by courts — including those that have placed limits on the location of religious institutions. It’s not a matter of if they will have to relocate their services — they will have to do this. It’s a matter of how much hostility will develop in the meantime. The more cooperative the church is at doing the right thing and relocating its program to an appropriate place, the less hostility there will be between the homeless and the residents. One homeless man has already retaliated by punching a resident in the face; another homeless person vandalized James’ car (*3. See — Editor’s note) and another yet decided to sleep on James’ property. I just hope that church peacefully moves its program now before a kid or pregnant mom gets seriously hurt.

H) Regarding the Camarillo issue: From what I was told — and I have not had time to research this to verify it to be true or false yet — The city of Ventura accepts money from the city of Camarillo to accept its homeless population here. (*4. See — Editor’s note) If it is true, then that is pretty shocking. 

Posted by “123” on VCReporter.com.

Editor’s note: *1. The Ventura Police Department does not have crime statistics dating back further than 2008, therefore, comparing crime stats before and after the Harbor Church was established is impossible and the only evidence of higher crime is anecdotal. *2. In discussion with people about this particular issue, business owners in industrial areas of Ventura, including along Market Street, said having Harbor Church perform services there would not be good for their district. No particular reasons were cited other than, apparently, there is no appropriate place for a homeless soup kitchen in the city of Ventura. *3. Resident James Devine’s truck was indeed vandalized with keyed markings, FU, but the culprit had not been caught by the writer’s deadline and there was no evidence that linked the crime to a homeless person. *4. According to Ventura officials, the city does NOT accept money from the city of Camarillo to provide such services.

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To anonymous...

It’s obvious where you fall on this very challenging issue. You appear to have the information and the outcomes in hand. Bravo! Now join the rest of us here on earth to either transform people's lives or push the problem out of your line of sight.

1. We want ur children safe and neighborhood pristine. In the article we heard from the school whom The Harbor Community Church shares space. They're good with the partnership. Your unfounded "scare 'em into my way of thinking" grandstanding is embarrassing; shame on you.

2. You criticize the article writer about The Harbor, its mission/ministry and then write a factually starved treatise using such phrases as "the stats", and "its works out to be about..." as if you had actually reviewed information. You hadn't–No facts or stats of any kind.

3. As a believer in Jesus Christ I note Jesus didn’t set up buildings and schedules of services and nifty organizations fit into the lives of followers. God’s great gift, His Son, was a man who walked down muddy, dirt paths, in the midst of humanity and went where needed. Jesus fed the hungry, healed the sick, diseased and gave audience to those that couldn't get recognition. Jesus worshipped, Monday-Sunday! Welcome to The Harbor! See that marquee out front? Worship Services include Monday through Friday 8:30AM - 1:30PM - and the words "Simply Jesus". Jesus set the tone.

3. The Harbor didn't make a legal argument in the article. That will be for the lawyers; there will be lawyers. There will be lawyers and articles written about the homeless, their rights and their plight. There will be articles written about children and the school and its partnership with The Harbor. Other articles how a few neighbors care less about the poor than they do their own comfort (or lack thereof).

You think there is a problem with the City attempting to restrict their 1st Amendment Rights as it relates to worship using zoning as a ploy? The State, counties, cities, towns, villages and burgs are all covered. It will be about the City, years ago, even after the CUP for daycare, and more than once approving the Harbor Church to operate as it is and has been. A new board cannot change the rule of law or the 1st Amendment!

You talk about "the right thing" as if you had been given a holy unction and the final, eternal word on what that is...You ever try just getting up and moving a Church? A Ministry? A calling that God gives you? Riiiiight...I'm guessing no! They are where they are and where they will be until God moves them out.

Finally, are you real? Who would believe that Camarillo pays Ventura to bus their homeless population to be dumped; only to then have Ventura chase them out of the place they were dumped!

Get involved instead of standing on the balcony and tossing stones. Blessings to you...

posted by JRW on 1/18/13 @ 08:05 p.m.

Two years ago I walked over to MY neighborhood church, The Harbor Community Church, to see if there was any volunteer opportunities. I was lucky to be asked to help serve in the kitchen, planning on helping once a week. The many different people who attend the church grabbed my heart and I am now there 5 days a week acting as the kitchen manager. I am a neighbor as well as some of the other volunteers who serve there. I feel there is a misconception that all of the neighbors wish us to be gone and that is so far from the truth. There are many neighbors who donate food, time, attend church services or just stop by to thank us for doing a good job in the community. We are also lucky to have daily volunteers from ARC and IABA. The clients there have a myriad of differing abilities and believe me their job coaches throughly looked over our church for all issues before bringing their precious people to help us serve.

The homeless people who attend services at the Harbor are homeless for many different reasons. The interesting thing is they represent all of the things we deal with in our own families here in America, I know certainly in mine. Some of them are physically not well but don't qualify for government assistance, some have lost their jobs and housing, there are others whose families have abandoned them due to their developmental disabilities or mental health issues and others have battled addiction. Like I said, all of the things I know my immediate family has and will deal with. This is truly an issue for all of America not just Ventura.

I feel blessed to be a part of the Harbor Church family, to be there every day. I am not afraid of our people, they are caring and many days sad souls. We are there to give some dignity, compassion and hope to our fellow human beings and to help give them spiritual guidance to help stabilize their lives in love. Please keep all of us in your prayers and someday come to see the love that shines from the Harbor Church

posted by kathypowell on 1/22/13 @ 03:22 p.m.
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