The City of Oxnard is using $790,000, from federal funds, to do an eviction of the Halaco homeless encampment, which is on private property, next month, in November, 2021. The homeless are residing on and near the slag pile, of the EPA Super Fund site, which is a toxic waste dump, in south Oxnard, near Hueneme Rd and Arcturus Rd. January, 2021, the City Council voted 7-0, to approve the recommendation from Emilio Ramirez, Housing Authority director for $375,000 of CARES Act funds for this eviction, but the eviction was postponed due to COVID concerns. That figure has now more than doubled.
The residents of the encampment were given verbal notice a month ago. Mid-October they were given a written notice, with the warning that they would be arrested for trespassing if they were not gone by November 1st. Ventura County Continuum of Care staff, and Oxnard Housing Authority staff have been intensifying outreach to offer motel room vouchers to the homeless, prior to the eviction date. There are currently about seventy persons in the encampment. So far, five have accepted the up to six-month offering of a room in various local motels. I have spoken with a number of the homeless, and there are many concerns they shared in being reluctant to accept a motel room. Some concerns are mistrust of government, and police authorities, some may have warrants, and others are undocumented, and fear deportation.
Since this is privately owned property, the eviction must be approved by the owners. They have been bad actors in being responsible for the property. They previously filed for bankruptcy, when the EPA stepped in, and they could not clean up the site completely, and make it safe. The property is not suitable for development, or any other use. Back in December, 2019, Oxnard evicted the homeless. The owners signed off on this, with the possible threat of citations for code violations for the trash on the property, from the homeless. Otherwise, they would have no authority to remove the encampment. The owners have not taken any prior action against the encampment, or provided any security measures, such as private security, or improving the condition of the fence surrounding the slag pile.
The question then becomes, what happens after the eviction? Of the $790,000, up to $387,000 is set aside for the cost of the rooms, at $100/night, approximately $3,000/month/person. The program ends September 2022. With a six month stay, that amounts to roughly twenty-one persons who could get a motel room, of the seventy-so persons on the encampment. It seems unlikely at this point that more than twenty-one will take the offer. But, if they did, the city of Oxnard would be in a real pickle. After a twelve year court battle, Martin vs. Boise, Ninth Circuit Court decision stated; people experiencing homelessness will not be cited or arrested for sleeping outdoors when no shelter is available, and the city will continue to take steps to put every person experiencing homelessness in Boise on a path to permanent housing. So, this decision set a precedence for other cities across the nation.
We can clearly see that the December, 2019 eviction resulted in no permanent solution to encampments on Halaco. So what is different now? Other than the $3790,000 price tag. Where will the seventy homeless go? A few will take the motel rooms, some will just move back to Ormond Beach, where they were evicted in 2018. Some will just camp on Nature Conservancy property, which surrounds the slag pile. Some will go to the river bottom in Ventura, some to the city of Oxnard and Ventura. Some will find temporary shelter with friends, or family. Very few may move out of the area, without the means for such a move. If they took that $790,000 and divided it up equally for the twenty-one persons gaining a six-month motel room stay, it would be $37,619/person. I asked the five who accepted the offer of the motel room, “Would you rather have six months in a room free, or a truck and trailer to live in, for free?”. All of them said the truck and trailer.