In an abrupt turnaround, the operators of Zoe Christian Center say they will not fight eviction proceedings and have reached an agreement with Oxnard officials to relocate the center's 63 occupants in low-income city housing.
But Fred Judy, Zoe's founder and president, has vowed to continue the center's fight to force the city to grant it a permanent location.
Judy said the tentative resolution, worked out Friday, represents the kind of help the center has always sought for its residents.
"The whole point is that we don't want people to be in shelters for the rest of their lives," Judy said. "Our whole purpose has been to get them into permanent housing."
Oxnard housing director Sal Gonzalez said the city will begin Tuesday to relocate Zoe's residents.
Although details have not been finalized, Gonzalez said residents will be placed in city-owned housing and will be responsible for providing about 30% of their monthly income toward rent.
Most of Zoe's residents pay between $350 and $550 a month for rooms at the center.
Despite the agreement with the city--which essentially will dissolve the shelter after its residents are relocated--Judy said he plans to push ahead with a lawsuit seeking $35 million in damages against the city alleging that Oxnard officials hindered the center's ability to raise funds.
"Although other things have changed, the situation with the lawsuit has not," Judy said. "We still feel the city has treated us unfairly."
Judy said he plans to launch a petition drive to gain support for Zoe's efforts to find a permanent location in the city. In addition, Judy said he will stage a protest to draw attention to the city's claim that the Rose Avenue site is a toxic hazard.
"If the city says it is an environmental issue, then everyone needs to be made aware of it," Judy said.
Friday's developments are the culmination of years of wrangling between Zoe and city officials, and the conclusion of a topsy-turvy week for the embattled center.
On Wednesday, Zoe's landlord served the shelter with an eviction notice after it had fallen $94,500 behind in rent payments over the past two years.
The following day, a Superior Court judge dismissed the center's lawsuit against the city for the second time in three months because the suit did not adequately show that city officials harmed the center's ability to collect grant money.
The lawsuit claims that the city, which revoked the center's operating permit in 1989, falsified an environmental report which said the center was too close to a fertilizer plant where hazardous chemicals were stored.
Afterward, Zoe commissioned its own study, which concluded that the site was free of contamination.
Judy contends, however, that the city's actions cost Zoe more than $300,000 a year in federal, state and local grants and crippled its ability to operate.
The agreement to relocate Zoe's residents in city-owned housing was worked out Friday afternoon when Jim Gilmer, the center's co-founder, contacted Gonzalez after learning that the city had offered to place the shelter's residents in permanent housing.
Despite the resolution, some were saddened by the loss of Ventura County's only year-round shelter for homeless families.
"It's unfortunate that this has happened because they provided a good service," said Oxnard Mayor Manuel Lopez, a longtime supporter of the center. "They have done a lot with very little."