Enough with the transient talk

The folks experiencing homelessness aren’t out-of-towners, they’re our neighbors

There are a number of takeaways from the recent local homeless census that can lead to a better understanding of the issue. The question in our minds is whether the community is willing to listen and learn from them.

Doing so is especially important for those in positions of power—both elected officials and government agency department heads. Indeed, we’ve seen a disconnect time and time again, especially from members of the Chico City Council and high-ranking law enforcement officials.

Take, for instance, the rhetoric about Chico being a magnet for homeless individuals. We’ve lost count of the times we have heard that so-called “transients” come here from all corners of the country. Think of the “homeless map” Chico police have used repeatedly to illustrate that point.

There’s just one problem: It’s wrong.

According to the 2017 homeless census, 75 percent of the survey respondents have lived in Butte County for more than three years; more than half have called this region their home for over a decade; about 80 percent of those polled lived here when they became homeless (see “Adding it up,” Newslines, page 8). In other words, these people are our neighbors, not out-of-towners here to live as “strays” or “professional bums” or any of the other pejoratives we’ve heard in reference to those without homes.

We hope that community leaders muster the will and intellect to take on the real issues related to homelessness: affordable housing, finances, employment, mental health, transportation, etc. A first step is acknowledging that these people are part of the fabric of our community.