Faith community and Walmart: Please help

Churches need to get behind the Orange Street Shelter, and we urge the big box to maintain its support

Even the folks who are deeply involved in aiding the local homeless community acknowledge that there is no panacea. One of the more promising efforts in Chico, however, is the Safe Space Winter Shelter’s proposed Orange Street Shelter. And right now, it’s at a critical juncture for support.

For the uninitiated, Safe Space has for several years operated a low-barrier facility providing overnight accommodations to people in the community who, for various reasons, can’t or won’t seek help from other organizations that provide shelter. In some cases, the homeless folks in question may have a pet. In other cases, it may be that they have sobriety or mental health issues. Some people simply are reclusive.

In any event, over the past five winters, Safe Space has run a successful operation that welcomes these difficult-to-shelter community members into an environment where they are served dinner and given a place to rest their heads overnight. Incredibly, the organization has accomplished this with a small army of volunteers.

But they couldn’t have done it without the help of a handful of partners in the faith community as well—the churches that have opened their doors and allowed Safe Space to use their kitchens to heat those meals and use their places of prayer as a communal bedroom.

On Tuesday (May 21), the Greater Chico Homeless Task Force voted to support Safe Space’s proposal for the Orange Street facility. Now, the organization needs additional leaders in the faith community to get their congregations on board. From our perspective, this involves houses of worship actually doing the work they regularly preach. You know, putting efforts behind such scripture as Proverbs 14:31: Whoever oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God.

More practically, Safe Space needs money. The CN&R learned on deadline that the North Valley Community Foundation had returned the Walmart Foundation’s $1 million donation—earmarked for expanded emergency shelter in the wake of the Camp Fire—to the giant retailer’s charitable arm.

The Orange Street Shelter project hinges on these funds. Walmart dedicated that money knowing that the disaster would greatly compound the local homeless population. We now urge the folks in Bentonville, Ark., home of Walmart’s headquarters, to work directly with Safe Space to help realize the nonprofit’s much-needed facility.

We could go on. The point is that talk is cheap. It’s time to walk the walk when it comes to helping the destitute among us.