Keep to the core mission

Life for homeless people will become infinitely more difficult if the Jesus Center loses sight of offering the basics

The author organizes a weekly citizen-led homeless outreach effort called Chico Friends on the Street.

For about eight years, the Jesus Center Free Store has provided clothing to the poorest people in Chico. The store is now in jeopardy. It was slated for closure, but due to public outcry, the store remains open. Nevertheless, the Jesus Center will not guarantee its future existence. This should be deeply troubling to the people of Chico; after all, the center is supported with donations from the community.

The Jesus Center is thought of as a “last resort” source for food and clothing. In fact, for the poorest people in Chico, it is the only source of food and clothing. No other facility provides the basic services provided at the center. This means that should the Jesus Center cease from offering basic services, street people, who already live with brutal challenges, will find life much more difficult.

You may ask why such basic services would be threatened. The answer lies in the priorities of the center. As with any such endeavor, there are differences of opinion as to how to best serve people. Some see the homeless as a population needing more training; with more educational programs, it is theorized that a percentage of the homeless population can be brought into the mainstream. Such programs can be useful, but Jesus Center program development is now being undertaken at the expense of basic services.

The Jesus Center should remain committed to providing and expanding feeding and clothing services, along with providing more day shelter space, lockers, toilets and showers. This is in keeping with the core, historic mission of the center. If it can provide these services, with excellence, and still offer other programs, that may be the best of all worlds.

If you believe the poorest people should have access to at least one place in Chico where food and clothing are available, please write to Jesus Center Executive Director Laura Cootsona and ask her to affirm that delivering these services is the center’s core mission: