Ventura County’s homeless community will have an emergency weather shelter in the coming rainy season, thanks primarily to the Ventura County Board of Supervisors.
“The county came through in a big way,” contributing $104,000, said Oxnard Housing Director Arturo Casillas.
The county was forced to step in after Oxnard and Ventura City Councils took virtually no steps to establish temporary homeless shelters — despite two years’ warning from charity St. Vincent DePaul that it would no longer operate one after the 2014-15 winter season.
The board’s contribution came from a matching fund it set up in 2010 to help cities establish permanent homeless shelters, but no cities took advantage of the fund.
The city of Ventura through a community develpment block grant contributed $41,000 toward a shelter at a packed Sept. 24 Homelessness Committee meeting, and Casillas says he will propose that Oxnard contribute $40,000 at its Oct. 27 City Council meeting.
“We’ll come back with a request for $10,000 of community block development grant funds on Dec. 8,” said Casillas, making Oxnard’s total prospective contribution $50,000. St. Vincent DePaul has also contributed $50,000.
The shelter will be at Ventura’s National Guard Armory at 1270 Arundell St., operating on the same 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. schedule as past shelters, said Steve Karnazes of Johnson Drive’s Mission Church, who will be managing the shelter when it opens ON Dec. 1.
As with past shelters, a card certifying that a person has passed a tuberculosis skin test will be required.
“If they do not have it, we will take them in, but they will be in a special area” and given three days to get certified, said Karnazes.
“For the past 18 months I have been serving as (Ventura’s) chair of the task force for the winter warming shelter,” said Karnazes, a retired flight paramedic who is Mission Church’s care pastor. “We weren’t able to come up with an integral plan for several reasons, mainly because of zoning.”
But when it became clear that Oxnard and Ventura were in danger of having no shelter for the homeless this winter season, Karnazes was asked to manage a temporary emergency shelter at the armory.
“It’s kicking the can down the road,” said Karnazes. “I’m glad we won’t have people sleeping in the rain, but we really need to have a viable plan (for a permanent shelter).”
Casillas expressed similar sentiments.
“The funding that’s come together is only on a one-time basis,” Casillas said. “We’ll have to find something better for next year, a permanent shelter.”
Resolution of the shelter dilemma came as former Oxnard housing official Will Reed was arrested on Oct. 14 in Las Vegas, where he managed a nonprofit organization, on several felony charges involving theft of HUD funds, a total of $5,800.
Reed — who regularly feuded with Oxnard’s Commission on Homelessness — was responsible for homelessness services, including oversight of the shelter managed each winter by St. Vincent DePaul under contract with the city of Oxnard.