Megan Diskin, VC Star
The state has earmarked $1 million to create an Oxnard satellite office of the Ventura County Family Justice Center.
The center, which formally opened in Ventura last year, brings resources for crime victims into an accessible setting that includes access to dozens of local agencies. The Ventura site operates under the umbrella of the Ventura County District Attorney’s Office. The pilot project in Oxnard would be overseen by the same office.
Assemblywoman Jacqui Irwin lobbied the Legislature to set aside funding for a satellite office because of the high number of Oxnard residents seeking services at the Ventura center, located at 3170 Loma Vista Road.
In the first year since the center’s grand opening in January 2020, more than a third of the people who received help were Oxnard residents. Most were Latina women in a domestic violence relationship with at least one child at home. Nearly a quarter were Mixteco or only spoke Spanish and had limited transportation options, Irwin said.
“There’s a very underserved population,” Irwin said. “The Mixteco, the farmworkers and the monolingual Spanish speakers who don’t have access to those services.”
Irwin’s 44th District includes Oxnard as well as Camarillo, Moorpark, Port Hueneme, Thousand Oaks and Westlake Village.
The genesis of the project began after Irwin met with District Attorney Erik Nasarenko following his January appointment as the county’s top prosecutor. Irwin has been impressed with the work done at the Ventura center and said she’s grateful she can tell constituents calling for help that there’s a place for them to go.
But when she heard how many Oxnard residents were going to the Ventura center, Irwin was on board to create a satellite office in Ventura County’s largest city.
As California’s budget assessments improved from shortfall to surplus, Irwin said she became “more and more optimistic” the needed dollars would be there. Last week, Nasarenko’s office announced that the funds had been included in the state’s evolving spending plan for the current fiscal year, which started July 1.
At the Ventura center, services include counseling, support groups, family law matters including child support and help with restraining orders. The office provides a central place for advocates to assist people dealing with domestic violence, sexual assault, elder abuse, child abuse, hate crime and other offenses. Services are not contingent on victims reporting to law enforcement.
The Oxnard office would have similar services but will focus on issues facing the immigrant community, Nasarenko said. Mixteco and Spanish speakers with an understanding of Latino cultures will be on hand to make clients comfortable, he said. Clients can get help filling out U-Visa forms, he said, which can give an immigrant resident status if they are a victim or witness to a crime.
“We just know from speaking with law enforcement and current victim advocates that there remains fear and apprehension about speaking to prosecutors and police officers,” Nasarenko said.
The Oxnard site will increase access for those who haven’t been able to travel to the Ventura site. Nasarenko hopes the office will foster trust in the system while also making the community safer.
Funds for the new site were expected to be allocated to the California Office of Emergency Services. From there, the center can apply for funding, but there’s no competition for it, Nasarenko said. Thanks to Irwin, the funds are specifically set aside for the Oxnard project, he said.
The center will then have until 2023 to use the money. Many details, including location and staffing levels, were still up in the air, Nasarenko said. In the next few weeks he plans to meet with local groups like MICOP and Lideres Campesinas to talk about planning, he said.
The DA’s office hopes to further expand victim service centers to the east county and the Santa Clara Valley over the next several years, Nasarenko said. The latest state funding and the county’s recent purchase of the three buildings used for the Ventura family justice center were reassuring for that goal, Nasarenko said.
Posted on July 3, 2021 at 8:00 am