Officials of Ventura County's largest homeless shelter said Wednesday that their ambitious plans to relocate their Oxnard facility will be aided by the passage of a statewide bond measure aimed at providing emergency housing for the homeless.
The Rev. Jim Gilmer, the Zoe Christian Center's executive director, said the Housing and Bond Act of 1988 could provide as much as $3 million of the $5 million it would take to build an elaborate new facility along lines unveiled Tuesday at Oxnard's City Council.
The plan calls for the construction of a compound that would include temporary housing for up to 200 homeless people, a school, a two-story administrative building, a multipurpose center, a cafeteria and a park, all spread over seven acres on Pleasant Valley Road. The facility is now at Rose Avenue.
A later phase of the project calls for the construction of 13 houses with two-car garages. The structures, each suitable for two families, would serve as "transitional" housing for families who had stayed beyond the shelter's limit but were unable to find affordable housing elsewhere.
"I don't know whether it will give us surety," said Gilmer, referring to the bond, "but it's very positive. I'm very happy."
Gilmer, who was the regional coordinator for the bond drive, said Ventura County could receive up to $6 million from the bond, which will raise $300 million for homeless shelters statewide.
Zoe officials estimate that they shelter 2,500 homeless people annually in either their Rose Avenue shelter, a woman's shelter elsewhere in Oxnard, or two hotels in Ventura. They said the figure represents 71% of Ventura County's homeless population of 3,500 people.
Zoe officials say the only alternative to the $5-million project involves building a new shelter on the Rose Avenue site. City officials have said that the current shelter must relocate by April because it is next to a fertilizer plant that poses a health threat to the shelter's residents.
Zoe officials contend that staying at the Rose Avenue site is the more expensive option because the city would have to pay at least $6 million to relocate the fertilizer plant.
The council withheld endorsement of the Pleasant Valley Road site, citing a developer's plans to build 100 low-cost dwellings for senior citizens on the property.
Zoe officials have "no doubt" that they can raise the funding necessary for either project, despite past problems paying the rent on the Rose Avenue shelter, Gilmer said.
The center has been handicapped in its fund-raising efforts because it did not have a permanent site for its shelter, Gilmer said, adding: "People won't invest in a project that's not going to be around."