Advocating for a day center

Homeless need a place to go for help

Both the city and downtown business owners have recently adopted short-term solutions for the issues surrounding the homeless and transient presence downtown. We urge more farsighted action.

Anecdotally, the presence of two Chico Police Department bike officers patrolling downtown through the holidays and the privately hired armed security guards rousting homeless and transient individuals from downtown business alcoves seem to be effective in deterring overnight camping on sidewalks and at City Plaza. Indeed, a recent attempt by the CN&R to photograph the homeless during the early morning proved fruitless—there simply wasn’t anyone sleeping downtown.

And that’s before the recently approved citywide civil-sidewalks ordinance (also known as the sit/lie law) goes into effect late next month. Touted by proponents as a necessary tool for police to move homeless people along (despite the documented failure of similar laws in other cities), the new ordinance likely will only ensure that police are issuing more citations to the homeless.

As you’ll see from this week’s cover feature, a special report with multiple stories related to homelessness (see page 20), Chico’s homeless issue is complex. We recognize that making downtown a safer, friendlier place will not be the product of any one ordinance or proposal. Still, there’s an obvious underlying problem that must be addressed—namely that the homeless need a place to go during the day. A day center for adults in the mold of the 6th Street Center for Youth (see “A working model,” by Ken Smith, page 23), would ideally provide housing referrals, job counseling, Internet access, meals, showers, laundry facilities and a place to hang out other than City Plaza.

Such a day center wouldn’t be a cure-all, but it would go a long way toward achieving what should be the real goal—getting homeless people the services they need to get off the streets.