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    Two Visions of America by Don Jans

    Oxnard Taxpayers Paying Twice For Homeless Services

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    By Doug Partello

    For Fiscal Year 21-22, the City of Oxnard is paying Mercy House, an outside vendor, $2,196,600.00 for being the service provider for the K Street, and PAL  temporary homeless shelters. Their contract stipulates that the contractor is responsible for providing toilet, shower, and laundry service to the homeless. Yet, we have an additional $383,000.00 from the General Fund paying for these services. The City Council unanimously voted for the increase of $98,043.59 for these services, on September 21, 2021. The contract for these services with Major Event Trailers (MET) started 3/1/2020, with end date 12/31/2021. Agreement No. A-8227.

    The amended contract with MET states that Mercy House has assumed this obligation as of July 1, 2021. That is very interesting, seeing that MET contract runs until 12/31/2021.  The start date for MET, 3/1/2020, also is within the dates of contracts with Mercy House, stating that MH is responsible for these services. It seems the taxpayers are paying twice for the same services.

    Initially, the shelter was just the K Street site, but COVID spacing required the PAC site to be added. The Mercy House contract total price tag is $2,969,600.00, with $500,000.00 coming from Housing Assistance and Prevention (HHAP)  HUD grant funds. The K Street and PAL shelters have a total capacity of 110 persons, with COVID spacing requirements. The Mercy House contract stipulates that they are obligated to maintain 75% capacity, or 82.5 persons. On any given night, they are having 60-80 persons.

     

    PRA 21-301 – A-8227 (1)

    PRA 21-301 A-8194 plus 3 amendments(1)-1

    Oxnard City Council Agenda Report

     

     

    The MET contract is for a 12-station shower trailer, 1-single-stall ADA-accessible shower trailer, 8-stall ADA-accessible restroom trailer, a laundry and dryer trailer. The MH security guard on-duty stated that the  8-stall restroom trailer are only for staff, not for the homeless. No comment from Mercy House management. That trailer is not ADA-accessible. There are two toilets in the Armory building, which the homeless have access to use. They are poorly maintained, and not ADA-accessible. The reasoning given for the MET contract for mobile trailers, from the 9/21/21 City Council Meeting agenda report, Agenda Item L-4:

    The building in which the shelter is located was constructed over sixty years ago and was originally configured and designed for National Guard operations, which at the time were restricted to males only. The restroom and shower facilities in the building are minimal and do not meet current requirements regarding accessibility, and are insufficient in number to serve a client population of over one hundred residents. In addition, the building has no on-site laundry area or facilities.

    When the City Council votes unanimously for such increases, as the $98,000 increase in restroom, shower, and laundry service, and the initial $285,000 for this, it makes one wonder if they understood that we had already paid for this in the Mercy House contract, which they also voted unanimously for. When the public and the City Council are sold on these expenses, as services for the homeless, why was the fact that the mobile restrooms are only for Mercy House staff not disclosed? They certainly should have access to restrooms, just let everyone know that these units are for them, and not the homeless. Could it be that these really expensive mobile restrooms going for the Mercy House staff, and not the homeless would look bad? They have only two to three staff persons onsite during the day. Why is there a need an 8-stall trailer, which must be more expensive than a 4-stall one, if only to be used by MH staff?

    The cost for providing temporary shelter for this small segment of the homeless in Oxnard is quite high, as we can see. It is estimated that there could be as many as one thousand homeless in Oxnard.  The problem is far greater than the funds available to address this issue that affects us collectively as a community, city, and society. We need to make sure that the limited funds available are used wisely, and correctly. It makes one wonder how many homeless that are left out in the cold could have gained access to shelter, and services, if the money were better spent. When household budgets are squeezed tighter, and tighter, such wasteful spending, and double spending of hard earned tax dollars could have remained in those households. Families are less likely to end up homeless because they cannot make it to the end of each month, with enough to house and feed their own families.

    PRA 21-301 – A-8227 (1) Oxnard City Council Agenda Report PRA 21-301 A-8194 plus 3 amendments(1)-1

    Correction: This article original referenced PAC. It’s been corrected to PAL.


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