’We’re not going away’

Thoughts on new city law that will crack down on living outdoors

I have been homeless for just shy of two years. I don’t drink or do drugs. Even though I am not part of any homeless circle, almost everybody is cool with me, giving me what I feel is an outsider’s perspective with an insider’s knowledge.

The city of Chico seems to be under the impression that homeless people will magically disappear if the city makes our lives miserable enough by criminalizing homelessness. Where are we going to go? Fact is, we’re not going away. No matter how far out of town we go, the police or sheriff find us and kick us out. So we all keep ending up sleeping and relaxing in the local parks and in front of businesses.

A large number of us cannot stay in shelters. A lot of homeless people, who would otherwise be in shelters, have animal companions. Given that no shelter allows pets, those facilities are not an option for them. There are a few other categories of homeless people who cannot live in shelters: those who are drug addicts, alcoholics, and also people with mental or social disorders.

The bottom line is homeless people are not going anywhere; that is absolute. The sooner everyone realizes that, the better. No matter how much you hate us and torture us, we will always be here.

What Chico faces is two evils. The homeless camping out of town, or us clogging up the local parks and business fronts. The problem with us camping is the associated environmental damage. In this regard, the solution is simple: create new stiff laws not to criminalize homelessness, but to protect the environment. That way only the bad ones among us are punished.

Since we are not going anywhere, a lesser evil has to be chosen until a better option is available. Push us much further and the lawsuits will be staggering. Criminalizing homelessness is a soft version of ethnic cleansing. The real problem here is the way the city is trying deal with the problem.