The day center idea

To get the homeless off the streets give them someplace to go

A number of good ideas for dealing with the problems associated with Chico’s homeless population were presented at last week’s City Council workshop on the issue. Some, like putting more police downtown, are near-term solutions that could foster some immediate improvement. In the long term, however, we need to tackle the core issues.

One of those issues is the fact that, during the day, the homeless have nowhere to go. There is no community living room or recreation room for their use. The Torres Community Shelter closes early in the day before opening again in the evening, and the Jesus Center, while offering many services, is not a hang-out place. The 6th Street Drop-in Center, which serves youths, is similarly not a place where someone can spend time reading, talking with friends or otherwise doing the things other people do in their homes.

So the homeless hang out on the streets. The City Plaza is a popular spot because it’s a place where everyone, the homeless and those with homes, are invited to sit and rest.

At the workshop, Jennifer Haffner, who chairs the Greater Chico Homeless Task Force, said her group would like to see establishment of a day center in Chico, a place where the homeless can congregate off the streets while also having access to a range of services.

A quick Internet check shows that cities all over the country have established such centers, and that they are valuable resources in combating homelessness. The Prado Day Center in San Luis Obispo, for example, is open every day from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. serving 90 to 120 people. It offers housing referrals and job counseling, restroom and shower facilities, washers and dryers, lockers for storage, voicemail and message services, a play area for children, a community garden and much more.

Creation of a day center seems like a logical next step in Chico’s effort to help the homeless.