Frequently-Asked Questions (FAQs): Unhoused Encampment at Ojai City Hall
Question: What efforts are being taken to connect unhoused residents with additional services?
Answer: The City of Ojai’s Unhoused Services Coordinator works closely with County and Local Agencies in identifying and providing for each residents’ specific needs. Ventura County Public and Behavioral Health Departments, Adult and Child Protective Services and Local Case Managers are included in the multi-agency effort. Although this will be ongoing and evolving, we give thanks to organizations and programs such as the Help of Ojai, Back Pack Medicine team and the VCHSA Homeless One Stop events, as well as community groups, churches, schools and locals who have provided their services and time.
Question: What are the most recent updates?
Answer: Eight wildness tents and storage units were assembled as of 1/28/2024, with the help of numerous community groups and other community supporters. The first tent was assigned and occupied that day. Over the next few days, the Public Works Department placed perimeter fencing and sandbags on all tent and storage platforms to secure for the anticipated rain event, and secured and placed an ADA compliant restroom with separate wash facility at the upper Kent Hall lot adjacent to the newly placed tents. By 2/1/2024, the remaining seven tents were assigned and moved into by the most vulnerable members of the encampment.
Question: How much did the City of Ojai request from the State for the Unhoused Encampment services assistance grant?
Answer: The request from the City of Ojai to the State was for $12.6M, which reflects anticipated costs for staffing, security and supportive services for up to 2 years (though there is no requirement that the camp endure at the Kent Hall parking lot for that length of time). The grant also included the anticipated costs for complete site preparation, cost for utilities, modifications to Kent Hall and a build-out of the Dignity Moves model. Please note that this request DOES NOT obligate the City to permanently locate the unhoused encampment on the City Hall campus. However, in an effort to obtain as much funding as possible for the City from the State for the effort, the City used the Kent Hall parking lot location for the purposes of detailing an estimate and making the request.
Question: What is the status of the temporary unhoused encampment at Ojai City Hall?
Answer: The temporary unhoused encampment at Ojai City Hall, which consists of approximately 30 individuals within tents on the oak woodland and creek area surrounding City Hall (also referred to as The Community Gardens), is being relocated to the City parking lot at Kent Hall, next to City Hall. The City Council allocated $200k for the purchase of wilderness tents to be placed on fire treated platforms to be installed as a community volunteer effort at the Kent Hall parking lot. Relocated members of the encampment are also being provided storage units. Their property, once relocated, must be confined to the space available in their storage unit and tent. The temporary unhoused encampment remains at capacity and has been posted for no additional occupancy since December 2023.
Question: Why is the City relocating the temporary unhoused encampment to the Kent Hall parking lot?
Answer: The City is relocating the temporary unhoused encampment to provide a manageable and secure area for improved public safety and living conditions, to offer a more sanitary environment, and to protect the health of the sensitive oak woodland and creek areas where the encampment currently exists. Once the encampment has been relocated temporarily to the Kent Hall parking lot, cleanup of the oak woodland and creek areas (The Community Gardens) may commence. Additionally, with the provision of storage space, the amount of belongings a member of the encampment can have can now be controlled. Currently, without offering storage the City cannot limit the amount of property or the manner it is stored.
Question: Is the City going to make the temporary encampment at the Kent Hall parking lot permanent?
Answer: No. The City is working with regional stakeholders and subject matter experts, including the County of Ventura and Dignity Moves, to identify suitable options for the City Council to consider for a permanent location. Once options are vetted, identified, and analyzed, the analysis will be prepared. The public will be notified and given the opportunity to participate in the discussion of the analysis in front of the City Council.
Question: Why did the City apply for a grant to help with the unhoused encampment? Doesn’t that contribute to the temporary unhoused encampment becoming permanent and obligate the City to the location?
Answer: Grant funds may be used for site management, security, and sanitation, which is greatly needed. Acceptance of grant funds does not obligate the City to permanently locate the unhoused encampment at the Kent Hall parking lot and/or area surrounding City Hall. The Kent Hall parking lot is the proposed site in the City’s grant application, as a site was needed to determine expected costs. The City retains the ability to explore other sites and apply to modify the grant to utilize the state funding to proceed with alternative location(s).
Question: Why did Dignity Moves present a site plan for a permanent location at the Kent Hall parking lot?
Answer: Dignity Moves was asked to provide a concept for tiny homes within a confined area to better inform the long-term decision making process. In order to create the concept, a location was needed, which is why the Kent Hall parking lot was used. The concept site plan is not an indicator of City Council decision or direction for a proposed permanent location and is for preliminary discussion purposes only.
Question: What are the next steps in the process?
Answer: In the coming months, the City will work with the County of Ventura, Dignity Moves, regional stakeholders, volunteer organizations and interested private property owners to explore and identify potential locations for a permanent unhoused encampment area elsewhere. These potential locations will be shared with the City Council and public for discussion, deliberation and potential action by the City Council.
Question: What about the impact to the surrounding neighborhood?
Answer: The City recognizes the impact to the surrounding neighborhood, and is committed to exploring, identifying and recommending options for a long-term solution. The City Council has identified this issue as its top priority.
Question: Why can’t the City simply remove the encampment? Why does it need to be relocated?
Answer: Residents of the encampment are long-time members of the community, with recognized rights and protections under the law. Any effort to relocate an encampment on public property must provide a suitable alternative location.
Question: How may I find out additional details about this matter?
Answer: Additional documents, links to past City Council meeting discussions, and other material may be found at City Council Agenda, Video & Minutes | Ojai, CA