Making Chico safe for all

Help needed to provide shelter for the destitute this winter

The author, a retired registered nurse, is a neighborhood watch organizer and chair of the Safe Space committee of the Chico Housing Action Team. She’s lived in Chico since 1983.

Several years ago, the local faith-based community created a rotating winter shelter program, providing food and a safe place to sleep at night. That same community supported the development of the Jesus Center and the Torres Community Shelter, and the need for the rotating shelter “went away” for a while. But now, as homelessness reaches crisis levels across our nation, the current local programs that serve those in need are facing record demands on their resources.

This is where the Chico Housing Action Team comes in. Formed in 2013 to address the need for affordable housing solutions for our homeless and housing-insecure, CHAT soon organized emergency shelter in response to the onset of sub-freezing temperatures and heavy rain. The Chico Peace & Justice Center and the Jesus Center graciously opened their doors for a total of 16 nights last winter.

This year, CHAT’s Safe Space Winter Shelter program is prepared to open for several weeks, with the Jesus Center, and Trinity Methodist, Bidwell Presbyterian and East Avenue churches all planning to open their doors for shelter on a rotating basis. We are very grateful and indebted to those who have already joined with us, but we need more venues, more volunteer help and more funding for Safe Space to become what it should be: a winter-long place to come in out of the cold for a meal, warmth and safe sleep.

Nighttime temperatures are already dipping toward dangerous levels, lending an urgency to this need. Providing emergency cold-weather shelter saves lives, saves taxpayers vast amounts through decreasing the need for police, fire department and emergency responses, and saves those involved by meeting our needs for connection and meaning in our lives.

The root of the current crisis can seem insurmountable, but if we reach out to individuals experiencing the demeaning and alienating effects of homelessness, we improve in some measure the quality of life of our entire community. If we wait to act until it is too cold, we may awaken one morning from our safe, warm sleep, only to find that another human, trying to survive unsheltered, has died of exposure.

For more info about Safe Space and how to volunteer, go to and To donate, make checks out to CHAT with Safe Space in the memo line, and mail to P.O. Box 4868, Chico CA, 95927.