A crisis indeed

The state is offering help to address homelessness; all we need to do is accept it

Let’s face it, the homeless issue facing Chico, Butte County and the entire state is much bigger than what we see on a daily basis while walking through downtown or the parks. It’s bigger than our shelters can accommodate.

Yes, it affects those with mental illness and addiction problems disproportionately. But it also affects our neighbors who lost a job or fell ill and could no longer afford rent or mortgage payments. Many of them, ashamed, struggle in silence. Perhaps the most heartbreaking part of it all is that it affects our children—more than 500 of them in Chico alone (see “For the kids,” by Ashiah Scharaga, page 8).

We know the biggest reason so many people are without a home: lack of affordable housing. But low-income homes and apartments don’t pop up overnight; we need to offer relief now.

It’s clear to us that Butte County has a shelter crisis. Numbers don’t lie: According to the 2017 Point-in-Time census, there were at least 1,983 people on one night in January who were considered homeless. In Chico, the number was 1,096; in Oroville, 713; Paradise, 120. In Chico alone, the homeless rate is three times the national average.

Last week, the Oroville City Council did the reasonable—and humane—thing and declared a shelter crisis, acknowledging that it does not have the resources to adequately address the issue. That community will be eligible for state funds specifically earmarked for organizations and programs that deal with homelessness. Chico, Paradise and the county of Butte would be smart to follow suit.

Imagine what $4.9 million could do for Butte County. The plan to consolidate homeless services in a bigger, better Jesus Center could be realized. Housing communities, whether made up of tiny homes or not, could be created. Mental health and addiction services could be bolstered. Our communities could be healthier and cleaner and, yes, as a result, safer for everyone.

The Butte County Board of Supervisors is set to take up the issue of declaring a shelter crisis at its next meeting, Sept. 25. The Chico City Council will follow with discussion Oct. 2. We urge you to reach out to your representatives and let them know this issue is important to you. Better yet, attend the meetings and speak up.

The status quo isn’t working—it’s time for a change, and the state is willing to help. All we need to do is accept it.