Chico needs a cooling center

The city must allocate the resources to open a day center for homeless individuals to seek respite from the heat

The heat wave a few weeks ago—when temperatures reached a whopping 113 degrees in June—was brutal. Air-conditioning companies were slammed and big-box stores scurried to refill their inventories of fans.

But air-conditioners and fans are luxuries that people with homes enjoy. What about everybody else?

That same week, a woman’s body was found behind IHOP along the fence line that separates the parking lot from Highway 99. The body was identified as that of 44-year-old Julienne Roehling, a Butte County resident for many years. Her cause of death has yet to be confirmed, but we’re convinced that whatever ailed her, the heat—temperatures reached 104 the day before her body was found—was a contributing factor.

Indeed, intense heat is a killer.

A look at nearby communities shows public library hours being extended, churches opening and nonprofits like the Salvation Army setting up daytime cooling centers for the homeless population and, in many cases, their pets. Chico must follow suit. The city spends resources in attempts to move homeless individuals out of City Plaza, away from the creeks—but where are they to go?

We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: A day center is not only a necessity but also humane. Ideally, it would include representatives from public and behavioral health as well as other service providers to help connect individuals in need with wellness information, housing referrals and job counseling. We can do better for this vulnerable population. And we must.