New council off to a good start

It’s already moved forward on two important efforts to help the chronically homeless

The Chico City Council’s liberal majority isn’t wasting time when it comes to addressing homelessness. On Tuesday evening (Dec. 18), during the panel’s regular meeting, its members moved forward on two significant efforts to provide shelter for our community’s most marginalized residents.

First is the longtime plan of a local nonprofit to launch its proposed tiny house project, Simplicity Village. The plan got a final green light—on its location, a private property in south Chico adjacent to a commercial corridor. As volunteers from the organization noted, they’ve been attempting for many years to secure a site. The hold-up: neighbors’ concerns.

In the end, conservative Kasey Reynolds joined the majority in its approval (only Councilman Sean Morgan voted nay). The freshman councilwoman’s approval may have raised eyebrows on both sides of the political spectrum, but we get why the affirmative votes transcended partisan lines. It has everything to do with the Chico Housing Action Team’s professionalism and success in the community (see Ashiah Scharaga’s report on page 9).

Additional good news at the meeting: The panel voted in favor of directing city staff to work with three reputable local homeless service providers—the Jesus Center, Torres Community Shelter and Safe Space Winter Shelter—on a collective effort to open a year-round, low-barrier shelter.

The project is looking feasible with a cash infusion from the Walmart Foundation in the wake of the Camp Fire—a $1 million commitment earmarked specifically for local organizations working to address the needs of the homeless community, both the existing population and the increase due to the disaster.

The facility will provide a much-needed safety net in the community. Since the fire, we’ve learned that many chronically homeless individuals have been living among displaced Camp Fire evacuees—in local parking lots, including Walmart’s, and at Red Cross shelters organized in response to the fire. As you’ll read in Meredith J. Cooper’s story (page 8), the Red Cross has been working to “transition” them out.

Frankly, the timing stinks. Due to the Camp Fire, several of the churches that typically serve as locations for Safe Space are unavailable—pushing back its opening date. That means our local homeless population is indirectly affected by the disaster. Why the county and Red Cross couldn’t wait for the seasonal shelter to open before “kicking them out”—the appropriate phrase—is beyond us.

In any case, we’re looking forward to progress on a year-round low-barrier facility. It will not only serve the chronically homeless, but also the members of the greater community who live in areas near the public spaces where homeless folks congregate.