Pictured: Property at 1258 Saviers Road, Oxnard.
by David Michael Courtland
Oxnard city officials have dropped plans for a homeless shelter near Five Points that drew heavy opposition from neighborhood residents and business operators.
City Manager Alex Nguyen told the city council at a meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 7, that rushing to sign a lease for the building at 1258 Saviers Road would give the city only a temporary solution to homelessness.
“I’ve given staff direction to terminate that effort and pursue another location where we can have a more comprehensive set of solutions,” Nguyen said, outlining a more long-term strategy, including a centralized spot that would offer both a shelter and health and social services.
“So in the end that outcome would be much more of a complete solution than what we were pursuing at Saviers,” Nguyen said.
Nguyen said that this strategy would ultimately include “Housing First,” a relatively new way of dealing with homelessness that moves people directly from the street or shelters to their own apartments.
“Because as I’ve said all along, a shelter alone does not solve homelessness,” Nguyen said.
The change in plans comes after several people opposed to putting a shelter in the former Salvation Army Thrift Store building gave Housing Director Emilio Ramirez an earful at a Dec. 18 community meeting. Business owners described break-ins and drug use by homeless people already frequenting the neighborhood, questioning the wisdom of putting a shelter across from two liquor stores.
During public comments at Tuesday’s council meeting Jack Villa, who attended the community meeting in South Oxnard, summed up the concerns of residents.
“When the council decides where that shelter will be, I really hope that you keep in mind the residents, the businesses, the traffic, the pedestrians,” Villa said.
Villa added that he hoped the location would have room for expansion because he suspects the number of homeless is going to double in four or five years.
City Councilmember Bryan MacDonald and Commission on Homelessness Chair Peggy Rivera both said one location being considered is Second and B streets in downtown Oxnard near the library.
Rivera and MacDonald suggested that the vacant building now at 241 W. Second St. could be razed and a new building like the one Nguyen described be built in its place.