Demonizing transients

They aren’t the only cause of downtown’s problems

Mayor Mary Goloff’s decision, at last week’s Chico City Council meeting, to scrap the agenda for the next council meeting, on March 26, and use the time for a workshop “digging deeper” into the goals of the new group Clean and Safe Chico, was a bold move. Members of the group had just made an impassioned and persuasive presentation to the council, and Goloff wisely decided not to let the momentum dissipate.

The eclectic ad-hoc group was formed to come up with responses to homelessness, but particularly the homeless transients and panhandlers who hang out downtown and in various other spots around Chico. It’s a good group with heartfelt goals, but as CN&R reader Bill Mash, himself homeless, notes in a letter to the editor on page 6, “When you target a minority sector under the guise of making an area ‘clean and safe,’ you do an injustice to the entire Chico community.”

Demonizing homeless transients is harmful, Mash writes, because it encourages another downtown group, alcohol-fueled “young hoodlums,” to take out their rage on homeless transients.

That’s why the council should focus the workshop on all of the factors that make Chico, and especially downtown, less than “clean and safe,” not just the homeless transients. Yes, there are more of them downtown, but let’s not go overboard. Downtown is still a highly attractive area. Our guess is that many Chicoans—probably most—still enjoy coming downtown during daylight hours.

Weekend nights are another matter. Too often, the sidewalks are filled with drunken and belligerent youths making a spectacle of themselves and frightening passersby. Any effort to make Chico cleaner and safer should also focus on them.