Consider a day center

Chico needs a daytime safe space for homeless individuals

The barriers homeless individuals face to get off the streets are complex and numerous, but when mental illness factors into the equation, things become infinitely more complicated.

As you’ll read about in this week’s cover piece by Assistant News Editor Howard Hardee, mental illness often prevents those in the homeless community from receiving services from Behavioral Health and other public agencies and nonprofit organizations. Those individuals often have an extremely hard time advocating for themselves. But there also are many practical reasons that the aid this population needs is out of reach.

For example, as reported in the story, homeless people have no safe place to store their belongings. Nor do they have transportation to make appointments or a way to keep track of them to begin with.

That’s where the idea of a day center comes into play. Chico is home to many wonderful organizations, such as the Jesus Center, which feeds the local destitute and offers them an opportunity to clean up, and the Torres Community Shelter, which provides a roof for those who don’t have one of their own. However, there is no place for local homeless folks to go during the day. Those who stay the night at the shelter must leave early in the morning, and the Jesus Center is not a place for people to hang out.

Ideally, a local day center would have experts in public health and housing, among others, who would help connect individuals in need with wellness information, housing referrals and job counseling. Lockers for storage, voicemail and message services, and transportation to medical appointments would also greatly benefit this vulnerable population.

The day-center model has been successful in many cities and it’s long past time that Chico’s leaders consider it as an option here, especially since the local homeless population is on the rise. Such a center is a vital part of the long-term efforts needed to help this portion of our community.