Ventura Set To Finalize Agreements For Year-Round Homeless Shelter

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This piece was originally published in the VC Star, and can be found here.

Ventura’s policymakers will vote on a lease and operating agreement to get a permanent, year-round homeless shelter up and running in an industrial part of town.

The city will, according to terms of the lease, pay $90,000 per year to occupy the first floor of 2323 Knoll Drive, a 10,000-square foot space in a building owned by Ventura County. The county values the space at $1.50 per square foot, so as part of the cost-sharing agreement will offer the discounted lease as an “in-kind” contribution.

The shelter is expected to cost just over $1.2 million each year to operate. Of that, the city will pay $712,500 and the county $532,500, which reflects its lease contribution.

The council chose Mercy House to operate the shelter for a three-year term with two, one-year extensions, a decision it is expected to finalize on Monday.

According to the proposal before the council, the city will pay $1.2 million in fiscal year 2019-20, which includes $834,000 in tenant improvements, furnishings and fixtures, $356,250 for six months of operations and $32,500 for shelter training, according to the staff report.

The most recent point-in-time survey found 1,669 people countywide were homeless on a day in January; of those 555 were counted in Ventura.

Also on Monday, the council will vote on:

Setting aside roughly $1.1 million to rebuild a playground at Arroyo Verde Park. The area was destroyed by the Thomas Fire in December 2017.

The cost to build it will be offset by $65,000 in insurance money and donations, which will be sought as part of a future giving campaign. Already, the Downtown Lions Club has donated $5,000 and Southern California Gas Company has given $10,000, according to the staff report.

The playground will be compliant with Americans with Disabilities Act Standards for Accessible Design and feature elements that allow children of all ages and abilities the opportunity to play together.

Authorizing the city to spend roughly $586,000 to lease 150 electric golf carts, five utility vehicles and two refreshment carts for four years. The council will also vote on raising green fees and golf cart fees by $1 each, which is expected to generate $150,000 to $200,000, the staff report projects.

The council in 2017 voted to have staff study options for changing uses on one, both or parts of the city’s two municipal courses.

At the council’s April 30 Finance, Audit and Budget Committee meeting, a question arose over whether the city could actually turn a course into another use without replacing the acreage somewhere else.

Council member Christy Weir, who is on the three-member committee, said it was the first she had heard of that possible restriction. On Monday, she’ll try to get clarity on what the law is on repurposing public park space, and whether a golf course fits the definition of park space.

“So far, we’ve been asking a lot of questions and looking at alternatives but we won’t get anywhere until we get legally definitive answers about what our options even could be,” she said on Friday.

Though profitable at one time, the city’s golf courses don’t cover the costs to operate them in part because of increasingly high debt payments related to millions in improvements and a decline in the game’s popularity.

Supporters of golf courses say they are a public asset like other city parks, which also don’t raise enough revenue to be self supporting.

In 2018, there were 120,637 rounds of golf played at the city’s two public golf courses, according to the city’s Comprehensive Annual Financial Report. That’s up more than 5,800 rounds from the previous year, but well shy of the 180,000 rounds played during the peak of its popularity.

Designate $25,000 toward capturing every person as part of the 2020 Census. Ventura county is listed as a “hard to count” community, meaning fewer than 73% returned surveys. That translates into a significant loss in funding. Ventura County officials estimate each person missed costs $2,000 that goes for schools, roads and other public services.

Many counties throughout California will be among the hardest to capture entirely in the country, for reasons that include language and cultural barriers, immigration status and high numbers of people living in substandard housing.

The money will go toward joining the 2020 Census Complete Count Committee comprised of representatives from the county, cities and nonprofits. The Ventura County Community Foundation is overseeing the committee’s funds, the staff report notes.

The 2020 Census will rely heavily on digital surveys and for the first time in decades, could contain a citizenship question, opponents of which said it would make it even harder to capture everyone.

Approving the sale of four lots that used to house Harbor Community Church off Preble Avenue near Blanche Reynolds Elementary in midtown. The highest bid of the eight that came in was for $804,000 from Doug Michie. The roughly three-fourths-acre site is being eyed for four single-family residences.

The church was demolished last year, after agreeing to close and move, taking with it a controversial program serving homeless people.

Surrounding lots sold between $250,000 and $375,000, a city staff report noted in July. The city paid $2.3 million for the property, which included money for Harbor to resettle out of the city.

Executing a roughly $446,000 contract with Downtown Ventura Partners for its park ambassadors program. The ambassadors, notable in their red jackets, monitor Mission, Plaza, Kellogg and the mini parks, as well as the Promenade, for illegal activity but also act as deterrents and to offer assistance to homeless people as well as tourists.

The ambassador program began as a 13-week pilot program in 2015. Officials have liked it enough to expand it, noting increased cleanliness and safety, fewer police calls, reduced vandalism and referrals to social service programs geared at housing homeless people.

“The ambassadors average more than 500 contacts per week with park visitors, businesses and transients, reporting any issues to the city,” the staff report notes.

Monday’s meeting starts at 6 p.m. at City Hall, 501 Poli St.


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