Oxnard Council Reviews Initial “Model” to Address Homelessness

By George Miller

At the April 16,.2019 Oxnard City Council meeting, the main act was City Manager Nguyen’s recommended “Housing First” concept  for dealing with the homeless crisis. This very ambitious approach would focus on getting people into stable, permanent living accommodations first, then providing services to support and move them along toward self-sustenance, where possible.

Local homeless encampment

The city also recognized Fair Housing Month, Arbor Day and Donate Life (organ, tissue and blood donations) and approved a host of “Consent Agenda items which are approved by default unless a council member pulls something for questions/debate.

 

Meeting AGENDA

Video will follow- you’ll find it HERE

 

C- CLOSED SESSION (5:00 PM)

1. CONFERENCE WITH LEGAL COUNSEL – EXISTING LITIGATION (Government Code section 54956.9 (d)(1))
(City Council)
Name of case: State of California, Regents of the University of California; et al v. Cellco Partnership dba Verizon Wireless; et al.
Sacramento County Superior Court, Case No. 34-2012-00127517

2. CONFERENCE WITH LEGAL COUNSEL – ANTICIPATED LITIGATION (Government Code section 54956.9(d)(2))
(City Council)
Based on existing facts and circumstances, there is significant exposure to litigation against the City in one potential case.

The City Attorney said that there were no announcements as a result of this session.

 

D- CEREMONIAL ITEMS

1. SUBJECT: Presentation of a Proclamation Designating the Month of April, 2019 as “Fair Housing Month.”

Ventura County Coastal Association of Realtors (VCCAR) reps Bonnie Getz and Jorge DeLeon accepted the proclamation and confirmed that VCCAR believes and support fair housing here, helping to ensure that their 4000 members do this. DeLeon warned about rental scams.  Mayor Flynn says he remembers times of bias for race, religion, ethnicity, even codified in CC &R’s. 1968 legislation addressed housing bias.

2. SUBJECT: Presentation of a Proclamation Designating April 24, 2019 as “Arbor Day.”

Erik Garwick,  the city’s Parks Manager in Public Works, received the proclamation. The city received an award for excellence in this area as a “Tree City USA” striving to reach a high level effort in preserving trees. This is interesting, considering the state of the city’s estimated 56,000 trees, which suffer from considerable deferred maintenance, with an estimated 60 year backlog and 600 dead trees requiring removal. April 24 ceremony in Lemonwood Park about this.

3. SUBJECT: Presentation of a Proclamation Designating the Month of April, 2019 as “Donate Life Month.”

Robert Thompson of One Legacy- Donate Life (LA/Ventura County) accepted the proclamation for Donate Life Month. This promotes organ, tissue, blood  donation to save lives. 114,000 people are now on the transplant list.  Need donors!  14 million CA donors now signed up. Can sign up when renewing drivers’ license.

 

F- PUBLIC COMMENTS ON ITEMS NOT ON THE AGENDA

Chris Williamson (former Planning Director)- Now Director of Central Coast Section of American Planning Association- Announced that they are awarding the city and CAUSE a “battle hard fought award” for opposing the NRG power plant and winning. May 4 celebration of this is at Crowne Plaza in Ventura. Mayor Pro Tem Ramirez congratulated him.

Lane Martinez- Addict, alcoholic, works with homeless on a team of 41 people. Does assessments of who needs help. Applied to CAG (Citizens Advisory Group) (Homeless Commission?). Promotes 12 step sober living program.  LA STOP program for AB 109 parole violators coming here? He will be on “Humanizing Homeless ” panel.

Debbie Mitchell- Mandalay Homeowners Assoc. April CIP (Capital Improvement Program) presentation said projects with funds should be scheduled. The Mandalay Bay sea wall pilaster repair project is funded, should  proceed- funds for 74 class 4 and 5 pilasters- $467,000 available. Money is being used for other things and is shrinking. Debbie says documents indicate water quality should be covered by city and other districts. If 2006 programs had been implemented, we would have $18 million available for projects. Seawalls are endangered- important safety issue.

Harry Kantor and Lana Jenkins- Back streets near Wooley Road (Donlon?) are like “a race track” (speeders) . They want speed bumps. Also, dark areas (lacking lighting) on 5th St. between Oxnard Blvd and Rose are dangerous. Kantor had a near accident there.

Pat Brown- She agreed with previous speaker, said Donlon was a shortcut, then transitioned to low income housing problems. Said we need to build a lot of it. Hard to find developers to build it and even harder to get them to build adequate parking.

Walter J. Snyder- Miss Lopez is very racist and evil- foiled his complaint. Says she improperly rewrote his discrimination complaint and got him in a lot of trouble. He is working with new Housing Director. Had roaches in his (public?) house. City came and sprayed without his knowledge, making him sick. He even read a poem (“Love is stronger than death”) until (way beyond when) his time ran out.

 

New Oxnard Housing Director Emilio Ramirez

G- REPORT OF CITY MANAGER/EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR/SECRETARY

City Mgr Alex Nguyen introduced Emilio Ramirez, new Housing Director, a former associate from Riverside, where Nguyen came from. His expertise is in working on the homeless crisis. Has education in Sociology and law (active BAR member).  Nguyen is making a major effort to deal with homelessness.

Housing Dept has high performance status with HUD and “syndication of credits” (whatever that means).

Working on housing improvements and wholistic community improvement.

Council Comments

Lopez- took a tour of Ormond Beach, recommends it to all.  Thanks for first city job fair last week.

Perello- Job fair was very impressive, many employers there. Attended native American powwow- a great success- very well attended. There is a problem with sexual violence against Native American women. A construction worker died in Oxnard last week. Construction is statistically even more dangerous than law enforcement. He is concerned about records of contractors., Seawalls should be addressed and should address Mitchell’s comments (in Item F),

MacDonald- Attended Latino police officers event. They gave out scholarships. Was in DC for regional defense partnership. Also met with EPA on Halaco Superfund toxic waste site.  Developed  a local partner who is making concrete out of the waste. It is being tested by EPA for leaching problems- They are optimistic they will pass. They estimate all toxic material could be removed in 7 years this way. Thanked Coastal Commission and other organizations involved.

Ramirez- Thanks to MacDonald (for his trip).  Said it (Halaco SuperFund site) is near Ormond Beach which she claimed is the largest coastal wetland area in California.  Attended  Job Fair and pow-wow, Earth Day celebration, El Concilio Latino Awards. Memorial for Jean Roundtree, who did much for Ormond Beach. Lamented Notre Dame fire- condolences

Basua- Welcome to Director Ramirez.  Met with would-be harbor developers.

Flynn- re: budget: community workshops coming in May. Considerable cuts will be required- perhaps unprecedented. Should be smart about what we will do. Should explore partnerships to share costs- neighboring agencies, cities. (he didn’t mention private organizations at all). He said that “priority-based budgeting,” which he has attempted to introduce for about five years, would better address this. Flynn also claimed that partnerships may help avoid some of the harsher cuts.

 

K-INFORMATION/CONSENT AGENDA

Pull item 3 withdrawal from BICEP by Ramirez and Perello, who want to know why this is proposed. Staff  member Moore  says members have left, loses have gotten worse, seeking alternative quotes for liability coverage.  Ramirez- are we leaving other cities in the lurch?  No, all are leaving.  Perello is concerned about “legacy issues.” What can go wrong? He is talking about potential prior claims, which BICEP would responsible for until the end of the year. About $5mm in equities now with all existing claims reserved for. Anticipate a refund, actually. Perello points out that in their report they wrote that any other things aren’t quantifiable.

Moore says BICEP is an insurance pool of multiple cities. BICEP retains or re-insures the risks.

Nguyen says they are leaving because membership has gotten too small.

Public Speakers

Debbie Mitchell-  Re: Special District 172 fund approval (Waterways Fund). Says it may not have been discussed in committee.  Our waterways district has been underfunded forever.  About $500K annually is  collected.  Seems like a move AWAY from transparency. Perello confirmed that it didn’t go to Public Works. Nguyen said it didn’t go to committee because it was only an $85 K items and it was published in advance. Flynn- not every council item goes to committee.

 

Vote- Passed unanimously, except MacDonald abstained on K-1.

 

L-1. – SUBJECT: Zone Text Amendment to Oxnard City Code Chapter 16 Article II and Article V, Division 13 Related to Accessory Dwelling Units: Continuation of Public Hearing.
RECOMMENDATION: That the City Council continue the noticed public hearing to the May 7, 2019 City Council regular meeting.
Legislative Body: City Council
Contact: Jeffrey Lambert, (805) 385-7882

Document: L-1 Notice of Continuation

Continued- Postponed until next month.

 

M-1-  SUBJECT: Introduction of the Oxnard Housing First Model to Address Homelessness (30/45/20) *UPDATED 4/8/19*
RECOMMENDATION: That the City Council receive this introduction to the Oxnard Housing First Model to address homelessness, provide input, and file the report.
Legislative Body: City Council
Contact: Alexander Nguyen, (805) 385-7430

Nguyen presented concept only- no action approval required tonight- just initial feedback ….

Homelessness is one of the most important issues city must address. Fundamental question- what do we do when people in our community become homeless- we have about 600. Nearly that many were inventoried- some missed. Not all will get the same approach, due to different problems/needs. Estimated 134,000 homeless in CA, which is about a quarter of the national total. He said that most homeless are in the western U.S.

from 4-16-19 Oxnard Staff presentation on first homeless model

1/4 severely mentally disabled , many afflicted with domestic abuse, about 9% are veterans. We have about a third of county’s homeless . 548 identified, 456 are “unsheltered.  Many reasons that people fall into homelessness.

Concerned not only with homeless, but its resulting, worsening nuisance. Homeless are taking over public space, due to court rulings. They now have a “right” to occupy public space, but not to violate laws. Their presence is preventing public from enjoying public spaces. This is a CA crisis, not an “Oxnard disease.” He showed awful photos of homeless encampments from other places much worse than Oxnard to prove his point. He said the tent city idea doesn’t work- they become de facto refugee camps. The city is tremendously strapped for funds for this and other things.

San Francisco has an $11BB budget- about half is the general fund and they still can’t solve their homeless problem.

Why do people fall into homelessness? He says the primary reason is lack of affordable housing. In 20 years, housing prices went from a median $180K to 552K. Wages actually had a slight decrease in that time. Oxnard rents can be as much as $3000 for a three bedroom apartment. Requires 3 full time average jobs to afford this. Te waiting list for affordable housing is very long-  a couple of thousand people.

Policing will not solve homelessness or even manage it. Legislation and ballot initiatives have increased exits from the prison system. Support programs haven’t  kept up. Many end up homeless. Shelters are an important tool, but do not resolve homelessness.

Homelessness response cost Oxnard police about $2mm a year.

Three aspects of addressing the probelm:

– Impact- Infractions, police response, clean up  (does not resolve homelessness)

– Service- Shelter, social services (does not resolve homelessness)

– Ending homelessness- “Investing”- the topic of most of the remaining presentation

 

$3.3MM spent on homeless related items- $2MM police, $965,000 on services to homeless.

Homeless services are not a traditional city undertaking. We don’t do social  work, addiction programs, shelter. Now we are forced to.

 

Approaches:  Traditional vs “Housing First”

  1. Start at shelters with high “barriers”- rules, days; move to transitional housing and finally to permanent housing either by public assistance or individual initiative.

or ….

  1. Nguyen recommends the “Housing First” approach which starts with permanent housing to get homeless sheltered in safe environment. Still have to work on their underlying problems that got them there. says this model has been proven most effective. He said those entering trend to stay housed which promotes stability and is cheaper in the long run. He says they have a track record of becoming great neighbors. Wants low barriers to entry.

 

Nguyen didn’t say what all this would cost (but there were a few costs in the staff report), how all this would be paid for and how these people, many of whom have severe mental, emotional or physical problems, would cope with running/supporting their own households.  He did say that employment would be critical to make this work, but did not address how many would actually be capable of holding gainful employment, paying their bills and managing their own affairs.

These were presented as sample housing costs.

There are now large costs for hospital/medical services. He didn’t say how Housing First would address this. Now, going to an emergency room , even without insurance or the means to pay, results in a new change of clothing and free health treatment.

He says current scheme is  a whack-a-mole” approach and that people moved out merely appear in another place. Homeless problems have only worsened.

People in their early 60’s and women are the fastest growing homeless segments.

Nguyen ants an updated outreach campaign on “responsible compassion.” Some peoples’ initiatives only perpetuate the problem. Need a family reunification program and try to reunite them with families, about half of which are out of the area. He said about half of Oxnard homeless are local.  Will need a landlord incentives program, wraparound services. City will partner with county and private organizations to accomplish the latter.

Police action is not solving the situation. Some homeless accumulate dozens of citations but continue to offend.

Must “invest” in actually ending homelessness. Not saying Housing First is a magic bullet, but it will get the  numbers down significantly over time. It’s going to take a decade to mostly address- it will at least reduce the scope of the current crisis.

Public Comments

Pat Brown- We are finally down to the nitty gritty point- very impressed with this idea. People should study/understand. Much is related to people’s mental problems, drugs, job loss. Need help from employers, too, says employers underpay and are “making money hand over fist” which is helping to cause homelessness.

Barbara Macri-Ortiz-  Big thank you to our City Mgr. Very impressive. We have been advocating this for a long time.  Large percentage of homeless over 55. We need this compassionate approach. Will be very hard to get landlords to accept section 8. Two times the number of homeless are at risk of homelessness.  Housing funding sources are hard to find and will dictate what can be done. Gotta do something about housing shortage and wage disparity.

 

Council and staff

Nguyen-Employment is a major component of Housing First.

Basua- Will it consist of HUD, state and city funding?  Nguyen: yes. Basua likes.

Ramirez- supports approach, hope we can make some progress. Goes to LA frequently- it is shocking, greatly expanded. can’t ask people to get well when they are living under a bush. Will take  a community effort to get landlord support. Many are living in cramped, poor conditions which contribute to domestic violence.

MacDonald- thanks for this approach. Says he has repeatedly said that shelters are a band-aid approach, not addressing “underlying demons.” Santa Babara transitional housing was  a temporary approach. He has been told he’s trying to “criminalize” homelessness and he’s not. Said he doesn’t begrudge homelessness, but does object to trespassing , drug use and other offenses. He has personal experience with homeless doing this on or near his home.

Likes the approach to help address this, but police and mental health professionals WILL have to address some. Will take long, but at least it’s in the right direction.

Perello- impressed, have never seem anything like it. How would we keep this from being an attraction which will bring in more homeless? Likes family  reunification approach.  What are successful cities? (this question was never answered) .Voters approved early prison release program. How do you intend to make these people be responsible for themselves staying in the system? Don’t want to be known as a place for a free ride. Police/cleanup costs could be spent elsewhere, but this program will not eliminate them. Current approach i not working. Wants to see the “return on investment.”  Don’t want to wait ten years to find out. Fires have made some people homeless. An earthquake could be much worse.

Lopez- Not a City issue, but a regional one- must work with other regional players, try to prevent anyone else from becoming homeless. Should be informing residents of approach. Very proactive and important stuff.

Flynn- Homelessness has  come up at at meetings  before. He has never before seen an approach to “move the ball forward.” Money has been a major constraint. With it, we wouldn’t have homeless encampments, Failure to act will cost more. Federal grants are focused on shelters and are inadequate.

Public housing programs don’t really work to move people up and out to take care of themselves. How will a homeless program do this if this doesn’t?  If we can’t move them up and out, we’ll just have to build more and more housing.

This is one of the best presentations I have ever seen to address homelessness. Also wants and update on the shelter. What will happen when it closes in June. I’m an optimist  but have concerns. Need  opportunities not only for homeless, but those living in cramped apartments.

Some homeless have full time jobs, just can’t afford rents. If we build it, they will come. There isn’t (S.I.C.) data that supports that. We refer to them as “transients,” but they really aren’t that transient. People think that the climate attracts homeless, but there are thousands in Portland, Seattle and other colder climates. Says no data shows that a program will attract people from other communities, then said we knew that happens, but shouldn’t let that fear stop us.

Nguyen- Says he will address all these concerns with a plan later in the year. He will ask Director Ramirez  to do a report in a few months.

There was far more detail for the ten year plan in the staff report than the oral, slide supported presentation, which was necessarily abbreviated due to the meeting format and schedule.

 

Agendas, more info


George Miller is Publisher/Co-Founder of CitizensJournal.us and a “retired” operations management consultant residing in Oxnard

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2 Responses to Oxnard Council Reviews Initial “Model” to Address Homelessness

  1. William Hicks April 20, 2019 at 11:01 am

    1) What makes California such a magnet for the homeless?
    2) How many of the homeless are California natives and natives of the community they live in currently?
    3) What current programs address the homeless condition, and are they making it better or worse?

    Serious questions that most politicians refuse to address.

    Reply
  2. Tom April 17, 2019 at 8:02 am

    According to the pie chart the “First Time Homeless (13.6%)” is the reason for becoming homeless.

    Makes no sense.

    Reply

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