A $43 million plan to repurpose a vacant Oxnard building into 63 apartments for homeless people, along with 75 beds for discharged hospital patients who have nowhere else to go, received key go-aheads Tuesday from the Ventura County Board of Supervisors.
In an unanimous vote, the board selected nonprofit Cabrillo Economic Development Corp. to develop and operate the project in a move that triggers negotiations over details of the partnership.
A new community clinic in the planned complex would be run by the Ventura County Health Care Agency and house a health care for homeless program. Supervisors also authorized
continued negotiations regarding aspects of the project with the city of Oxnard and Gold Coast Health Plan, the area’s Medi-Cal administrator.
The board is expected to vote again on funding, agreements with partners and other issues.
The project targets two alarming problems: the growing homeless population and the dramatic shortage of beds for homeless patients ready to be released from hospitals or skilled nursing facilities but who still need time to recover.
“Those are two things that are really a huge gap for us right now,” said Jenn Harkey, director of the county’s continuum of care program.
A January homeless count showed 2,441 people without shelter across the county in a tally that rose nearly 10% in a year. County officials cited another report showing 135 homeless patients discharged each month by hospitals in 2020.
They said a program launched by the nonprofit National Health Foundation in 2017 at the Salvation Army in downtown Ventura and relocated in May to a temporary site at a Ventura Motel 6 provides 38 recuperative care beds for area hospitals with plans to offer 16 more spaces.
“We need about double that,” Harkey said, expressing hope the new complex will reduce the homeless population by providing more beds and permanent dwelling units. “It will make a huge impact.”
The plan involves the renovation of a 78,000 square-foot building on Vanguard Drive in Oxnard that was once used by the county Human Services Agency but was vacated more than a year ago because of deterioration and damage caused by a flooding from a broken fire line.
The planned new complex is expected to be completed by fall 2025. A second phase is scheduled to begin in several years and would bring 260 additional apartments for the homeless in buildings constructed in the site’s parking lot.
Harkey said the county is also studying a plan that would provide 50 more recuperative care beds in another repurposed county building.
The lack of recuperative beds currently means patients may stay in the hospital longer than needed. Other patients who are released end up on the streets, don’t completely recover and end up back in the hospital.
“You’re much more likely to go right back in,” said Deanna Handel, director of complex care for the Ventura County Health Care Agency.
Funding for the project includes $2.5 million from the county general fund and $7.5 million in state money. Cabrillo Economic Development Corporation is also expected to apply for a state grant that would be used for the project. And the county is in negotiations with Gold Coast Health Plan for funding the recuperative care beds. Gold Coast administers Medi-Cal for more than 250,000 low-income county residents.
Tuesday’s vote authorized negotiations with the city of Oxnard on an agreement that would give Oxnard homeless residents priority for housing and beds in the new complex.
Clay McCarter, a county program management analyst who presented the project to the board Tuesday, said the approval was one of several barriers that need to cleared, including an extensive review under the California Environmental Quality Act.