Oceanside has three community resource centers dispersed throughout the city in Crown Heights, Eastside and Libby Lake.
The centers originally opened in the mid-1990s to address concerns regarding gangs, drugs and a lack of resources in these communities.
Today, the centers work with several community nonprofits and organizations to provide social services and other resources.
At the Crown Heights center, North County Lifeline provides weekly food distribution and an afterschool program for a limited number of children.
The Crown Heights center also works with Vista Community Clinic to assist residents with applying for Cal-Fresh and Medi-Cal.
In the Eastside, Chavez Community Resource Center also works with Vista Community Clinic to provide Medi-Cal and Cal-Fresh assistance.
Additionally, the center is working with the Oceanside Unified School District to provide space for virtual learning in its computer lab onsite. Throughout the pandemic, elementary school students were able to use the lab to tune in to class.
“There’s a lot of families and kids who don’t have access to WiFi or even just a quiet place for Zoom classes,” Mendoza said.
He added that all of the students are separated by 6 feet and wear masks while in the lab. Both staff members and guests at all of the centers are required to follow COVID-19 guidelines including wearing masks and maintaining 6 feet of distance from each other.
At the Libby Lake center, there is enough space for Vista Community Clinic medical and dental offices, Interfaith Community Services and additional virtual learning assistance like the program at Chavez.
Mendoza said the technology and language barriers at home have been difficult for children continuing to learn.
“What people really don’t see is the work that’s being done here,” Mendoza said. “We have two public library employees that have been doing an amazing job working with these kids.”
Between April and October, the centers worked with the Botanical Community Development Initiatives (BCDI) to provide fresh produce from local farmers to residents on a weekly basis.
According to Maria Yanez, housing program manager in the city’s Neighborhood Services department, the communities were concerned about having food throughout the pandemic.
The center was able to provide 200 boxes on a weekly basis, with 50 boxes per each center including at the John Landes Recreation Center in the Tri-City area.
Once funding for that program ended, the other nonprofit organizations working with the centers continue to make sure food distribution hasn’t stopped. Yanez said there are plans to bring back the program to potentially provide more than just fresh produce — a decision that will go to City Council in the upcoming weeks.
The centers have also been working with Vista Community Clinic to provide COVID-19 testing at six different locations throughout the city, including the three centers as well as John Landes Recreation Center, Melba Bishop Recreation Center and at New Song Community Church.
Though some issues remain in Crown Heights, Eastside and Libby Lake, these communities have come a long way since the 1990s and their resource centers have played a significant role in the change.
“We’re still going to have issues with crime, gangs and drugs — that’s part of society,” said Adrian Mendoza, program specialist who oversees all three centers. “But now families, youth, seniors — they have a better chance to move forward.”
Mendoza, born and raised in Oceanside, has been involved in the centers since nearly the beginning. He said working for the centers has been a rewarding experience.
“The main thing is providing everybody with that same chance to succeed,” Mendoza said. “Some of us aren’t born wealthy or with a lot of resources but that doesn’t mean we can’t receive them, so that’s part of our job — to even the playing field.”
According to Mendoza, his staff has been an essential piece of the centers’ continuing to operate throughout the pandemic.
“They have the greatest amount of patients and I applaud them,” Mendoza said.