Converting Ventura Hotel Housing Poor to Homeless Shelter Proposed

Times Staff Writer

Fourteen low-income families living in an old Ventura hotel could be relocated to make room for 21 homeless families under a plan proposed by two agencies serving the county’s poor.

The agencies, Project Understanding and Cabrillo Economic Development Corp., have launched efforts to raise $1.7 million to buy the De Anza Hotel on Ventura Avenue and convert it to a shelter for some of the county’s 2,000 homeless people, officials of the nonprofit groups said Wednesday.

The first floor of the three-story structure, once the site of Lagomarsino’s Wholesale Liquors, would become a center for social service agencies offering mental health assistance, food stamps and other referrals.

The top floors would be renovated to provide up to 84 beds as temporary housing for 21 families now served in Ventura County primarily by the Zoe Christian Center, which offers about 360 beds at two sites in Oxnard and Ventura.


Money Set Aside

“This would only touch a portion of the need,” said Pat Driskell, executive director of Project Understanding, a private group that provides day services for the homeless. “But it’s as good a situation as we can come across.”

Driskell said money had been set aside to help cover moving and relocation expenses for the 14 families who live there now.

“We don’t see it as kicking them out,” he said. “In fact, with the considerable amount we’ve budgeted, they can probably upgrade their housing conditions, given what they are now.”

The owner of the hotel has agreed to sell it for $855,000, Driskell said. He said the rest of the money would go toward bringing the structure up to city earthquake-safety standards.

Between Project Understanding and the Cabrillo Corp., which helps develop housing for low-income farm workers, $150,000 has already been raised, he said. The rest would have to come from other cities, the county, and state and federal grants.

The project is one of four on which Ventura officials are considering spending $238,000 set aside to buy affordable housing, said Dave Valeska, project manager for the community revitalization division.

The Salvation Army, Zoe Christian Center and the Commission on Human Concerns have also applied for the money. The City Council will probably make a grant within the next month or two, Valeska said.


“The need is substantial,” he said. “There’s new homeless being created everyday.”