Oxnard officials said this week that they will allow the Zoe Christian Center--Ventura County's only year-round homeless shelter--to remain at its present location until it finds a new home, even though its city permit expires in April.
Zoe had hoped to buy a 6.9-acre parcel in south Oxnard where it could build a shelter to house 200 people, but plans fell through this week after the property owners announced that they would build a senior-citizen housing project there instead.
Oxnard City Planner Matt Winegar said Zoe might be allowed to stay at its Rose Street location while it searches for a new site and until construction is completed, a process Winegar said could take as long as a year. Eventually, city officials want the shelter relocated because it occupies a site zoned for industry and manufacturing, and sits next to a fertilizer plant where hazardous chemicals are stored. They say this poses a danger to residents.
But Winegar said he did not anticipate the city ousting Zoe when its conditional-use permit expires.
"I don't anticipate that they'll be evicted in April," Winegar said. "I'm sure we'll work with them to negotiate some settlement. This service needs to be provided on a continuous basis until an alternative is found."
4,500 Homeless People
Ventura County has about 4,500 homeless people, according to the United Way.
Zoe, a nonprofit, nondenominational shelter, feeds, clothes and boards 180 people at its facility at 605 S. Rose St., runs a shelter program for 180 people at the Hamilton and Mission hotels in downtown Ventura and is renovating a women's shelter on Hayes Street in Oxnard that will accommodate 30 women and children. Its $45,000 monthly budget is provided through federal, state and local grants, and private contributions.
The city has given Zoe a list of about six potential sites for the homeless shelter, but Winegar said the center has rejected most of them as "unfeasible."
Zoe leaders, who have often been at odds with Oxnard officials, accuse the city of thwarting their plans through restrictive zoning.
"It's time for the city of Oxnard to stop playing games and do something about the homeless people in the area," said the Rev. Fred Judy, Zoe's founder and president.
Condemnation of Land Asked
Judy says he plans to appear before the Oxnard City Council next week and ask that the city condemn the south Oxnard property and then sell it to Zoe.
The homeless shelter originally offered $1.7 million for the property, which is bounded by Pleasant Valley, Etting and Butler roads in south Oxnard.
But negotiations with the owners, Larry White of Oxnard and William Guntner of Camarillo, broke down because of poor communication, both sides said.
Judy said it is time for the city to make a good-faith effort to find Zoe a new home.
"Either they find us another strip of land or they donate that land to us," Judy said.