No mangers, straw for those on the streets

Remembering the nativity story as a project to help homeless seniors is tied up in litigation

The author is 77 years old and a Chico resident since 1980.

Most of us are familiar with the Christmas nativity story. In many parts of the world, the tale is celebrated on Christmas Day. It is a simple story about how a husband and wife seek shelter as the wife is about to give birth.

In the end, they settle around a manger, surrounded by livestock. A bed of straw becomes a birthing place and a child is born. Over time, this moment is celebrated in songs and tableaus and dramatic re-creations.

As you read this, hundreds are living right now in the greater Chico area without even the benefit of a bed of straw. You see them daily pushing their carts on streets. They sleep wrapped in cheap blankets and sleeping bags, nestled not in a manger but at best in a doorway or alleyway or under bushes. Most likely they are on the hidden edge of a park or creek. If they are lucky, they may have the comfort of a leaky tent.

It is not the frustration that many of us experience facing the apathy and ignorance among our fellow Chico residents that bothers me. It is the outright anger that a small number of Chico residents display and encourage when addressing homeless issues.

The Chico Housing Action Team (CHAT) is one group of Chico residents that believes otherwise. Over time, they have raised funds and developed plans to establish a village of “tiny homes” in southeast Chico. Simplicity Village is a tiny house village for unhoused seniors. Its proposed location is ideal for a senior population. The land has been secured. And CHAT already is providing housing for our less fortunate.

This holiday season, Simplicity Village needs immediate community support. There is a Grinch in this story and his heart is too small. One businessman’s opposition may bring an end to the story of Simplicity Village. I cannot understand the logic. Elderly men and women pose little threat to a lumber yard. Would they be less dangerous if we simply built some mangers with straw?