After two decades of helping to house Ventura County’s homeless, the Rev. Fred Judy is on the verge of becoming part of the same group he dedicated much of his life to serving.
The 53-year-old founder and president of the embattled Zoe Christian Center said he is being evicted from his South Oxnard apartment for failing to pay his rent on time.
Judy, a disabled veteran and retired Navy man, said his government checks would often arrive several days after his monthly rent was due.
“I’ve been putting all of my energy and finances into trying to keep that place open and it just drained me,” said Judy, who continues to hold a seat on the Oxnard Union High School District board of trustees. “Life turned me out. I’ll be without a home and with no place to go.”
Judy’s tumultuous relationship with the city of Oxnard hit a low point last May when city workers shut off water at the Zoe Christian Center.
The Rose Avenue facility, which once housed 180 people as the county’s only year-round shelter for homeless families, had more than $43,000 in unpaid utility bills. In addition, city officials posted the shelter as unlivable, citing health hazards and zoning code violations. Judy closed the shelter in late July.
“They wanted to kill us and now we’re dead,” he said.
Judy continues to operate a much smaller shelter for about a dozen homeless women and children in Oxnard’s La Colonia district. And he said he is moving forward with a lawsuit that accuses city officials of conspiring to put Zoe out of business.
Judy said he has also started a marriage and family counseling practice in downtown Oxnard.
“I have to start all over again and try to build myself a life,” said Judy, who plans to put his belongings in storage and hopes to move in with a friend until he can get on his feet. “I’m just hoping that the community forces the city to do something about the neglect for the homeless so that it doesn’t get accepted as a way of life.”
Oxnard Housing Director Sal Gonzalez said city staff are drafting a housing plan that deals with homeless issues. But it does not appear that Zoe will be part of that effort.
“I think our history will show that the city has been supportive of Zoe,” Gonzalez said. “We would not have done that if our intent was to drive them out of business.”