Council Moves Forward with Homeless Shelters

Is Ventura ready for a "low barrier" = "low rules" shelter?

By Lori Denman

Ventura City Council voted for the city to move forward with planning and setting up a temporary foul weather shelter by December.

A year-round shelter plan will also move forward. However, there was no discussion of the shelter’s status of being low barrier. Which means, no rules (as of yet) for clients – that they be working towards any type of sobriety or accepting programs or services. Some community members hope that security issues and rules will be discussed, implemented and enforced.

As discussed before in Citizens Journal,  “while there are many community members who support a shelter, there are also many who are concerned with low barrier plan.” Low barrier is defined as “housing couples, people with pets, and people struggling with mental health or addiction problems.” On this website, the low barrier model contains the definition of housing those with “an active or history of substance use” or “criminal record, with exceptions for state-mandated restrictions.”

As stated in a previous Citizens Journal  article, “residents of Ventura are skeptical of the low barrier approach that has been used in San Francisco and has led to an increase of crime.”  Citizens Journal article, “A Town Turned Upside Down,” describes the effectiveness of the low barrier housing.

During this meeting on the evening of September 24, all council members and the mayor were present. In the beginning, there were no public presentations. There were no special presentations.

City Council Communications

Weir wanted to remind the public of all of the campaign candidate forums for those who want to become educated of who is running in their districts. She suggested visiting and visiting its elections section for further information. She also mentioned that on Wed. Oct 3 the League of Women Voters is having a forum for districts 4, 5 and 6 at Citrus Glen Elementary School. The Ventura Social Service Task Force is having a forum on Oct. 4 at Temple Beth Torah at 7pm. This is for all districts and covers homelessness. All information on all forums are listed on the city site.

Consent Items

There were eight consent items on the agenda. It was recommended that council move all resolutions and ordinances presented on this evening be deemed read by title only and all further reading be waived. The calendar was moved except for item 8f, which Weir pulled.

8b: The first consent item was: Request to Extend Out-Of-Class Pay. Recommendation was to: approve Community Development Department to extend the current out-of- class pay increase of 5% for Electrical Inspector Vince Tovey for an additional 6-month period, not to exceed 960 hours in FY 2018-2019.

8c: Sewerline Replacement – Ann Street Area; Award of Construction Contract. Recommendation was to: approve the award of contract and authorize the Mayor to execute an agreement with the lowest responsive and responsible bidder, Toro Enterprises, Inc., of Oxnard, for the Sewerline Replacement Project – Ann Street Area, Specification No. 2018-011, in the amount of $1,686,001. And to: authorize the encumbrance of contingency funds for the project in the amount of $168,600 for use by the Public Works Director during construction.

8f: US 101 – California Street Off-ramp Relocation to Oak Street – First Amendment to Professional Services Agreement with Galvin Preservation Associates for Completion of Preliminary Design and Environmental Review. Staff: Mary Joyce Ivers, Interim Public Works Director. Recommendation was to:

  1. Approve and authorize the City Manager to execute the First Amendment to the existing Professional Services Agreement with Galvin Preservation Associates (Agreement Number 2018-004) for an additional $42,282 for the Environmental Review Document for the relocation of the California Street Off-ramp for a total contract amount not-to-exceed $195,343 plus a $10,000 contingency.
  2. Authorize the Finance and Technology Department to increase the project appropriations by $42,282 from Gas Tax fund (12) balance, and assign appropriations to the proper projects, funds, and accounts.

8g: Ventura Water Reclamation Facility Mixed Media Filter Rehabilitation Staff: Kevin Brown, Ventura Water General Manager. Recommendation was to:

  1. Make a finding that entering into a contract for Mixed Media Filter Rehabilitation is of urgent necessity for the preservation of life, health or property because of the current condition of Mixed Media Filter No. 3 inability to affectively treat waste water is a threat to public and environmental health.
  2. Approve the award of contract and authorize the Mayor to enter into an Agreement, subject to approval by the City Manager and City Attorney with ERS Industrial Services, Inc. for the rehabilitation of Tertiary Mixed Media Filter at the Ventura Water Reclamation Facility Contract for a total not-to-exceed amount of $249,416.60 not including contingency.
  3. Authorize the encumbrance of contingency funds in the amount of 20% of the contract not-to-exceed $49,883 to be used for compensation to the contractor for extra work that may be required but is not specified in the original contract.

8h: Regional Water Wise Incentive Program. Recommendation was to:

  1. Approve and authorize the Mayor to execute the First Amendment to the Memorandum of Understanding between the City of San Buenaventura, Casitas Municipal Water District, and City of Santa Paula to amend Exhibit 1 – Cost and Grant Reimbursement

Estimates to include an installment of $23,000 from Casitas Municipal Water District and extend term to December 31, 2019 (Agreement No. 2017-112).

  1. Approve and authorize the Mayor to execute the Second Amendment to the Professional Services Agreement with WaterWise Consulting, Inc. to increase the contact amount by $315,250 for an increased amount not-to-exceed $1,480,824 and extend term to December 31, 2019 (Agreement No. 2016-033).

Formal Items

Council discussed item c, “Foul Weather Shelter Memorandum of Understanding; Ventura Countywide Homelessness Memorandum of Understanding; Declaration of a Shelter Crisis; and Year-Round Shelter Status Report.

Recommendation was to:

  1. Approve a Memorandum of Understanding, in substantially the form submitted subject to City Manager and City Attorney’s approval, with the County of Ventura and the City of Oxnard for the Governance and Oversight of the Foul Weather Shelter System;
  2. Approve a Memorandum of Understanding on “Ventura Countywide Homelessness” with the County of Ventura, the City of Camarillo, the City of Fillmore, the City of Moorpark, the City of Port Hueneme, the City of Santa Paula, the City of Simi Valley, the City of Thousand Oaks, and the City of Oxnard;
  3. Adopt a Declaration of a Shelter Crisis resolution; and Receive update on the status of the year-round shelter negotiations with the County of Ventura for the Knoll Drive property.

Jeff Lambert was joined by Director of Parks, Recreation and Community Partnerships. It is an acknowledgment for the need for a year-round homeless permanent shelter. The shelter will not be open by December for the foul weather, so they are looking to create an alternative. They also want a tri-agency structure with costs provided by each jurisdiction. The challenges are that they do not have an operator or a location for the shelter yet. It has been estimated to be 15 to 20K cost to run the shelter for 22 days. This is the amount of time that the foul weather shelter alternative – a “pilot shelter” – would be open.

There is the Oxnard Armory that may be used as the pilot shelter. It would be able to house homeless people overnight and daily. It would have a capacity of 110 clients. The cost would be (based on a six month operation) – $550,000 with the City of Ventura portion of $185,000. The MOU will assure that all the cities of the County will assist in this endeavor. They will each develop their own crisis response system and pursue the range of affordable housing. Funding will come through the Ventura County Continuum of Care (CoC) – the funding is awarded to them and they provide staff. Hopeful funds will be available by the first quarter of 2019. They are looking at 2323 Knoll Dr. as the permanent shelter location.

It will cost $4 million to do tenant improvements of the location of Knoll Drive. It would be $2 million for the city, hopefully and also operating costs. Negotiations will be done with the County to see what funds can be provided for this. A permanent year-round shelter provider is being considered. Operators need to have promises and experience raising sources of money and Lambert said that they interviewed three solid candidates.

There were 11 public speakers on this topic. There was support for the foul weather shelter. A homeless man said that he enjoys River Haven and believes that there should be more like these. He thinks there should be more transitional programs like River Haven.

Another man was homeless for 15 years in Ventura and said it was traumatic. He appreciates low income housing. He said that if one woman was homeless on the street, that is a state of emergency. It was also said that a variety of housing should be available to all types of homeless persons.

It would be a “Coordinated Entry System,” that is well run, said Lambert to all those businesses concerned in the area of Knoll Drive location. If it is run well with security, then those concerned would feel better about the shelter.

The foul weather temporary shelter is just a band-aid fix, said Deputy Mayor Matt La Vere. He looks forward to work together to create a permanent year-round shelter.

Lambert added that once they hire a shelter operator, that the operator would want to run the shelter the way they seem fit. Does this mean the operator hired will want to run a “low barrier” shelter with no requirements of sobriety or entering programs or services? It was said that the shelter should include services with the shelter operation.

The council voted to move forward with the recommendations to aim towards opening the year-round shelter and also work at opening the temporary foul weather shelter by this December. There were no permanent comments in the recommendation about there being any programs or services in the shelter, or that the clients in the shelter should be sober or working towards sobriety. Nothing was said about them receiving programs and services. So the shelter will then be “low barrier,” and they will also allow those who are low level offenders in to sleep. So drug dealers will be allowed to sleep in the shelter, not unless shelter operators come in with a set of rules and regulations.

Formal Items

Council discussed other items including salary resolutions for service employees and unions; sewerline replacement for Seaside Wastewater; a failed pipe at Harbor Blvd. Bids for these pipes’ replacement reach over $8.5 million. There are two bidders for the project. The line will be run from the sewer plant to the fairgrounds.

A public speaker said that basically, that line could feed all the businesses along Harbor Blvd and new projects on Sanjon. The suggested a recycled water system. Recycled water is cheaper. After further discussion, the council accepted the recommendation and that is to:

  1. Approve the contract and authorize the Mayor to execute an agreement with the lowest responsible bidder, Toro Enterprises, Inc., Oxnard, for the Sewerline Replacement Seaside Wastewater Force Main Project – Harbor Boulevard, Specification No. 2017-008, in the amount of $8,538,334.
  2. Authorize the encumbrance of contingency funds for the project in the amount of $853,800, for use by the Public Works Director during construction.
  3. Authorize the Finance and Technology Department to transfer appropriations to the proper projects and accounts.

The last discussion was about the following: 2021 General Plan Update City Council Civic Engagement Initiation Workshop. Recommendation was to receive staff’s overview of the initial steps toward the 2021 General Plan Update civic engagement strategy. They gave general plan reflections.

Agenda, Sept. 24 Ventura City Council Meeting:

Video, Sept. 24:

Lori Denman has been a professional journalist since 1996. She has worked as associate editor for the Los Angeles Daily News TODAY Magazines and has freelanced for LA Weekly, and more. She is now the Ventura reporter for Citizens Journal.

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William Hicks

JUST A REMINDER…….What you’re willing to pay for, expect more of it.

If you want to make your community a magnet for homeless people, make career homeless very comfortable with a homeless shelter.