It takes a village

The author urges support for the creation of a local tiny house community

The author is a board member of the Chico Housing Action Team and founder of the Chico Tree Advocates.

The other day, I found 60-year-old Patty sleeping on the sidewalk along 15th Street, just half a block off Park Avenue. Patty worked as a licensed vocational nurse in Chico for 15 years, got a back injury and now she’s sleeping on the streets.

According to Butte County’s 2017 Homeless Point-in-Time Survey, which was released in May, she is among the recorded 433 people sleeping unsheltered in Chico. (That number doesn’t include the additional 600-plus individuals in Chico who live without permanent, stable housing.)

Yuba County declared a shelter crisis a year ago, with a homeless population that was smaller than what Chico’s is now. Officials there determined that homeless encampments posed a potential threat to the health and well-being of their citizens.

Here in our backyard, Butte Environmental Council volunteers pulled 6.8 tons of trash out of our parks and waterways during a recent one-day cleanup. One volunteer found 14 needles that day.

After months of research that includes visits to and meetings with the directors of tiny home villages in Portland, Eugene and Medford, Ore., along with one in Marysville, the Chico Housing Action Team (CHAT) has submitted a proposal to the city of Chico that is the least expensive way to get the most amount of people housed in the least amount of time: It’s called Simplicity Village.

Several studies have shown that cities save millions housing the homeless compared with the costs of emergency response, police time and jail time.

Once it’s up and running, this 24-month pilot program, of 33 detached sleeping cabins with shared amenities, will pay for itself! The participants pay the rent. Simplicity Village has a structure that includes CHAT oversight, neighborhood participation and layered policing. CHAT is resolved to make this village safe, clean and an asset to our community. This is an opportunity to have a positive impact on what may be the most urgent sociological crisis of our lifetimes.