Recovery group volunteers clean up homeless camps

Volunteers with the Christbridge Ministry clean up refuse on Feb. 18 at the Lindo Channel homeless encampment behind S&S; Organic Produce on Mangrove Avenue. Photo courtesy of Jim Secola.

The homeless problem in Chico regularly leads to encampments where refuse such as old bottles and used syringes not only clutter the landscape but also pose safety concerns.

But one group is working to help.

Christbridge Ministry, a local Christian organization that runs a recovery program that helps people with escaping addiction, cleans homeless camps around Chico in order to lessen the negative impact on the community.

The volunteers haul away trash and any drug-related material that may be in the area at its own cost.

Christbridge does regular cleanings on Friday mornings and some of the program’s members used to sleep in the areas they are now restoring. The group works with Code Enforcement, a department within the Chico Police, in order to ensure the camp cleanups go as smoothly as possible.

“Many of the homeless understand what we are doing and even support the effort,” said Jim Secola, founder and executive director of Christbridge Ministry. “The men in my program learn about community responsibility and the need to give back. They are also learning that they can be productive members of society.”

The program aims to helps those battling addiction and homelessness find a better life through Bible teachings, relapse prevention programs and vocational training.

Christbridge Ministry has cleaned up a number of homeless camps, including one on East 20th Street and Park Avenue. Local businesses are said to be pleased with the work the ministry has accomplished, as the camps can be filled with people on drugs or alcohol who can cause disturbances.

The efforts of Christbridge have been largely lauded as a benefit to Chico, but some do not agree with the efforts of the ministry.

“I do not think it’s just for Christbridge Ministry to kick out homeless people just because their camps may be an eyesore to the community,” said Hilary Clair, a senior at Chico State. “Trespassing on private property is one thing and harassing encampments of people on public land is another. We should be more concerned about the welfare of these individuals. Often they have nowhere else to go.

Others don’t see what the fuss is about.

“Unless they are involved in illegal activity that I’m unaware of, I don’t think it would be appropriate to force them to move,” said James Burstedt, a junior at Chico State. “That being said, I can appreciate how homeless camps can shed a negative light on the city.”

When the camps are to be cleaned, a 48-hour notice is given by the Code Enforcement team, in which time most of those occupying the location leave.

Those that remain or are looking for help are referred to the Torres Shelter and are given the opportunity to be helped through Christbridge Ministry.

Michael McClurg can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @michaelmcclurg.