Move Chico toward compassion

Homeless criminalization is doing nothing but making people’s lives more miserable

The author, an activist and longtime Chico resident, is a frequent writer of letters to the editor.

New ordinances pound Chico’s homeless with profiling, increased penalties and the loss of personal property. Street people are being driven out of self-sheltering locations. They are offered nonexistent “services.” They are denied 24-hour restrooms—even portables. Citations lead to astronomical fines that virtually none can pay; this leads to arrest warrants.

So, what’s the point of this increased persecution? It’s clear: Mayor Mark Sorensen and the majority of the City Council want homeless people gone: The visible poor interfere with commerce. The idea is to make life as difficult as possible, so they will leave.

Aside from this approach being unconstitutional, unethical and inhumane, it doesn’t work. People can’t just “go away.” There is nowhere to go. They remain—and they are plagued by greater misery.

So, what to do?

Other than a legal challenge to the city—which I fully support—I think we should radically change our street culture. Move Chico toward greater inclusion—in defiance of the council. Become the city that makes compassion work.

Suggestions: 1) Get to know more people on the street. Learn their names and assure them they are welcome in Chico. 2) Supply people on the street with food and other support—such as material for staying warm and dry. Deliver the goods with the same message, “You are welcome here.” 3) Do not report the activities of homeless people unless they are a danger to themselves or others. 4) Refuse to fuel the drama associated with narratives of dysfunction—such as stories of unusual behavior, which serve only to demonize people with disabilities.

With the help of generous donors, a small group of us have been meeting and distributing food, blankets, tarps, rain ponchos, hand warmers, toothbrushes, socks, hats, packs, cash, etc., directly to people on the streets. And, we’ve been doing some listening. Some will argue this is no “real solution.” But in the absence of real solutions, it’s an affirmation of the right to be here.

Interested in participating? Let us know at