A worthy ministry

City Councilman Sean Morgan bungled things for Orchard Church

Chico is without a doubt seeing an unprecedented level of homelessness and there are most certainly problems associated with it. For starters, people are sleeping in doorways downtown. What’s worse, some are using those areas—as drunken college students have been for years—as places to urinate (or worse). Local business owners are understandably fed up (See “Clearing a path,” Newslines, by Melissa Daugherty, page 10).

Unfortunately, however, there’s talk going around town that some of the organizations providing services to the down-and-out are simply enablers. Chico’s Orchard Church was a victim of that knee-jerk reaction during the last regular City Council meeting (see “Much ado about meals,” Newslines, by Melissa Daugherty, Oct. 17).

Its “Church on the Street” ministry has been providing meals and fellowship to the homeless at City Plaza for more than five years. But it took only days to dismantle the church’s operation, thanks in part to freshman Councilman Sean Morgan. After finding out about the gatherings, Morgan actually attempted to personally file an appeal of the Bidwell Park and Playground Commission’s vote to approve the church’s permit.

If he’d instead reached out to church leaders or visited the weekly get-togethers, he might have seen that the outreach is, as one park commissioner put it, “[T]he most peaceful event I’ve seen at City Plaza.” He also would have learned that the nonprofit has successfully helped to pull numerous locals out of homelessness. In other words, while city leaders continue to wring their hands, this small nonprofit has made progress in doing exactly what the citizens of Chico want: to find solutions to solve the local homeless crisis. And it hasn’t cost the city a dime.

Morgan did meet with church leaders after an appeal was filed, but if he gained any understanding of the mission of the City Plaza gatherings, he didn’t share any of it from the dais. Moving forward, we hope the full council will have more of an open mind. If anything, city leaders should be asking Orchard Church what they can do help with the cause.