T.O. Council Selects “Dream Team” to Develop Emergency Homeless Shelter

The Thousand Oaks City Council has selected a trio of nonprofits to build and operate a village of tiny homes that will become the city’s first year-round emergency shelter and homeless services hub. 

The council voted unanimously Tuesday to choose a team led by Thousand Oaks-based affordable housing nonprofit Many Mansions to lease a city-owned property at 1205 Lawrence Drive to build a so-called navigation center. 

The site is an undeveloped acre in an industrial area of Newbury Park. The project will consist of 30 small, prefabricated modular homes with on-site services where law enforcement and social services agencies can send people in need of shelter.  San Francisco-based DignityMoves will construct the center and North Hills-based Hope of the Valley Rescue Mission will operate the site. 

 “Time is absolutely of the essence,” she said.  The site could be developed within 12-18 months and the council has the option to expand to 50 units at a later date, according to staff reports. 

 Jeff Lambert, chief operating officer of the Ventura County Community Foundation, called the partnership a “dream team” and said the foundation would work to bring charitable donations to the table to help support the venture. 

 Many Mansions, which owns and operates 18 affordable housing communities with 1,400 residents, is the only member of the development team based in Ventura County. The nonprofit will serve as leaseholder and provide consultation services to oversee that the site is well-run. 

 Developer DignityMoves specializes in building interim supportive housing, which its website describes as “a stop-over between tents and permanent housing.” The firm, which was created by a group of business and real estate professionals during the pandemic to address homelessness, has built three interim supportive housing communities with 165 units since 2021, including one in downtown Santa Barbara.

DignityMoves, the developer selected to build Thousand Oaks' first emergency shelter, has completed three interim supportive housing projects, including this one with 35 units in downtown Santa Barbara.
DignityMoves, the developer selected to build Thousand Oaks’ first emergency shelter, has completed three interim supportive housing projects, including this one with 35 units in downtown Santa Barbara.

Hope of the Valley, a faith-based nonprofit, operates 900 beds in tiny home villages, including the country’s largest village of tiny homes in Los Angeles County.  Though the organization is faith-based, it does not discriminate based on gender, age, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or religious affiliation.  Founder Ken Craft, a Ventura County native, told the council his rescue mission currently operates 15 shelters and three Project Homekey sites, which are former motels that were converted into permanent housing using state funds. 

 “We operate six tiny-home communities and we’ve seen really the impact it makes when we can bring people indoors,” Craft said. “We can stabilize them. Then we begin to address the underlying issues that led to their homelessness and the issues that are preventing them from being permanently housed.” 

The navigation center will include shower and laundry amenities as well as employment, healthcare and mental health services. It will not be a drop-in shelter. 

 “The goal of the temporary housing is to create a pathway to permanent housing and to end homelessness,” said Assistant City Manager Ingrid Hardy, who spearheaded the city’s effort. 

An estimated 250 residents in Thousand Oaks are living without shelter, Hardy said. 

The project is expected to cost $3.9 million to design and build and $800,000 to operate annually. The county has previously promised to pay cities for half of a shelter’s annual operating expenses, according to the staff report.  Dusty Russell, an economic development analyst for the city of Thousand Oaks, said the city is trying to minimize impact on its general fund. Other funding sources could include various county and state grants, including Project Homekey. 

 City Councilmember Al Adam said modular homes are the “cheapest, fastest” way for Thousand Oaks to prevent the “devastation” of homelessness that has plagued cities like Santa Barbara and West Hollywood.  “This modular home village that is to be created is as much for the homeless in our community as it is for the community itself,” he said. 

Councilmember Kevin McNamee said the navigation center “goes a long way” toward addressing inhumane living conditions, but said the city’s two current projects fall short of having capacity to house everyone living on the streets of Thousand Oaks.  He applauded the development team, noting that he encounters people experiencing homelessness outside his business every day.  “You’re doing God’s work,” he said.  

Article originally appeared on Ventura County Star: Thousand Oaks selects developer for emergency homeless shelter