With the rainy season in full swing, thoughts turn to where the county’s homeless population will find shelter during the winter months. This year, the county’s warming shelter will be in Ventura, and several cities and the county are working to allocate funds for its operation.
In the past, emergency shelters have been operated from Dec. 1 to March 31 by the St. Vincent de Paul Society, with the armories in Oxnard or Ventura leased for the purpose, but the Society announced in 2013 it would no longer manage a shelter after the 2014-15 season. For the 2015-2016 season, the shelter was located in Oxnard on K Street.
On Oct. 5, the Oxnard City Council voted unanimously to partner with the city of Ventura to open the shelter within Ventura, the shelter would be located at the National Guard Armory on Ventura’s east end.
In 2015, Oxnard and Ventura split the cost for the operation of the shelter when it was located in Oxnard. Jenny Buckingham, community development block grant program manager, says that the city has already allocated $30,000 toward the shelter’s operation.
The program is funded by a grant from the Federal Housing and Urban Development agency.
Peter Brown, city of Ventura community services manager, says that, together, Ventura and Oxnard are expected to contribute $130,000 toward the shelter’s operations from a combination of the block grant program and their respective general funds. He says the shelter can cost up to $90,000 a month.
Brown says that all agencies involved are in “hurry-up mode” after what he and activists truly desired — a permanent shelter in individual cities – failed to materialize over the year. However, On Tuesday, Nov. 1, the Oxnard City Council’s agenda included an item to approve and authorize the use of $30,000 of Salary Savings from the city’s Housing Department to fund the Winter Warming Shelter, but the council meeting exceeded 10 p.m. – the council’s curfew – and the request was continued, to be heard again on Nov. 15.
“From hotel to motel voucher programs, permanent shelter facilities, our goal has been to establish crisis housing programs in every city,” said Brown. “Nobody wants to do the sheltering at the armories. It’s not the best practice; it doesn’t move people out of homelessness and into case management as efficiently as more permanent-type sheltering, including transitional housing, does.”
Christy Madden, senior deputy executive officer, County Executive Office, says that the county is “anxious to find a solution” to the lack of extended services. When the shelter closes for the day at 6 a.m., those staying over are asked to leave and return when the shelter reopens. Madden says that not a single person staying at the warming shelter last year was placed into permanent housing.
“Last year, it was all about that this was going to be the last time and yet here we are,” said Madden. “We’re going to have to prove to our Board of Supervisors that both cities are making progress and that this really will be the last time.”
Madden adds that the cities have asked the county to provide funding and that the county would like to provide staffing for the shelter’s services as well, possibly from Health and Human Services and Behavioral Health.
The shelter is scheduled to operate from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. beginning on Dec. 1, and though Brown says it is generally scheduled to be open through March 31, 2017, it will really be how much money is raised and how much is spent that will determine the shelter’s length of duration.