Have faith in the Orange Street Shelter

The Jesus Center may have backed out, but the more experienced nonprofit is committed to moving forward

Word this week that the Jesus Center had backed out of the plan to help establish and run a low-barrier shelter in Chico is a bad-news, good-news situation. The bad news: The Jesus Center would have had an opportunity to learn from its involvement and be better prepared to open its planned Renewal Center. The good news: The organization’s partner on the project, Safe Space Winter Shelter, is determined to see it through.

Frankly, Safe Space is the more experienced organization when it comes to this endeavor. We’ve chronicled the nonprofit’s work in this newspaper numerous times over the five years it has operated a low-barrier seasonal shelter in local churches. Moreover, for several consecutive years, the CN&R has seen things up close by volunteering to cook for and serve a meal to roughly 60 guests.

What we’ve witnessed from what heretofore has been an all-volunteer organization is a well-oiled machine. Considering the shelter will have full-time staff and security personnel, and partnerships with social service agencies, we have no doubt that this project will be a safe space that goes beyond providing folks with a roof over their heads. Furthermore, because it includes a day center and storage facilities, the community stands to benefit as well.

One of the main concerns of the proposed location in an industrial section of Orange Street is its proximity to students at Chico State and a couple of elementary schools. From our perspective, however, the site is ideal. It’s close to multiple modes of public transportation—the Amtrak Station and the city’s B-Line Transit Center. Any potential threat to the schoolchildren is negligible; one of the aforementioned campuses is across Nord Avenue.

None of the shelter’s immediate neighbors are residences, though, yes, the facility is about half a block from the edge of the south campus neighborhood. This is a highly traveled pedestrian thoroughfare—one already used by many in the population the shelter would serve. The building essentially backs up to Depot Park, where many homeless folks spend their days and nights already.

As for the Jesus Center backing out at the eleventh hour … oh, ye of little faith. The nonprofit’s executive director told us it was a unanimous decision by the members of its board of directors. We’re disappointed to see them shirk their No. 1 core value—being “Christ-centered.” We highly doubt the good shepherd would have been cowed by NIMBYs.