Oxnard will close a long unfilled gap in its services with the launch of an emergency women’s shelter in January for homeless single women, women with children and pregnant women.

The shelter at 1450 Rose Ave., a former residence now owned by the city, will replace a faith-based drug and alcohol recovery program for women located there since 2008.

Will Reed, the city of Oxnard’s homeless program coordinator, says the city began looking for a new program provider in August after the current one balked at a change in the city’s use of grant money to combat homelessness.

Reed explained that the Housing and Urban Development (HUD) grant awarded the city in 2004 had been earmarked for women’s drug and alcohol rehabilitation.

Earlier this year HUD notified Reed’s department that the restriction had been removed, and the city decided to use the funds to provide emergency shelter for women.

The drug rehab program’s managers were not comfortable with the change.

“This really just wasn’t a good fit for them,” said Reed. “The executive director said they weren’t accepting federal funds.”

The situation was complicated by the limited number of prospective providers in Ventura County with experience managing a women’s program.

“Not only did we have to identify a service provider, but we had to do it fast,” said Reed. “We did not have a very large window of time.”

Enter Pastor Sam Gallucci, the senior pastor of the Harbor Church located on Preble Drive in Ventura, specializing in homeless outreach services.

Since 2009, Gallucci’s nonprofit organization has been operating the Kingdom Center, a transitional living program, at what used to be the City Center Motel on Thompson Avenue.

“When we got down to crunch time, this was the only service provider that fit what we needed,” said Reed, adding that the other applicants for the building proposed men’s programs.

Transitional living is long-term, generally featuring case management by social workers, with a goal of helping clients find jobs and housing, as opposed to an emergency shelter, which is short-term and focused on just getting people off the street.

“Transitional living has a higher threshold (of conditions to meet); not everyone is going to qualify,” says Gallucci, explaining that the large group of people not even having basic needs met prompted his group to apply for the contract with Reed’s department.

“We really saw a great need. We hate to turn people away. We have over 100 people on the waiting list at Kingdom Center,” says Gallucci. “Emergency shelter is a way to provide an alternative. We see it as a natural extension of our efforts.”

With a main residence featuring several large rooms and a kitchen, as well as a smaller bungalow that can be used as an office, Gallucci says the house on Rose Avenue is ideally suited for the purpose his group has in mind.

“We’re really excited to provide a place for women and children,” says Gallucci. “We envision making this a real comfortable environment. We want women to really feel like this is a home.”

Gallucci said the program will provide shelter for a short stay of a few days or as long as 60 to 90 days, depending on circumstances. He indicated that various wings of the building would be used for single women, women with children and pregnant women.

“We’re going to make it as comprehensive as we can, to get as many women with children off the street and provide a service to the community,” including case management, collaboration with county and state agencies and a shuttle service to help clients searching for jobs, explained Gallucci.

The Ventura County Homeless and Housing Coalition’s annual homeless count found 531 homeless women — about a third of the 1,604 homeless adults surveyed, as of January 2011 — and 220 children.

Of 638 homeless adults surveyed in Oxnard, 163 were women and 87 were children.

“These kids don’t have much hope,” says Tammy Duff, Kingdom Center’s director of operations, who will be managing the Oxnard shelter as well. “Providing a sense of hope is just so important, giving these people a sense that there is something else in their future.”