Red-top meters to help homeless

Charles, a homeless man, carries all of his belongings and his dog with him at all times. Photo credit: Sam Barker


An increase in complaints about aggressive panhandling has caused the Downtown Business Association to take action and provide shelters for the homeless.

Melanie Bassett, executive director of the Downtown Business Association, said panhandling has been discouraging people from going downtown because more people have been feeling unsafe.

Melanie Bassett, executive director of the Downtown Business Association, encourages students and residents of Chico to aid the homeless community by donating at the red-top meters. Photo credit: Lauren Anderson


Handing out money to the homeless can be detrimental because it’s more likely to feed their addictions rather than help their situation, Bassett said.

In an effort to aid more homeless people and give them opportunities to join a shelter, the Downtown Business Association is starting a campaign called “Make Change Count.”

Six red-top meters are to be installed downtown which will allow residents to donate to shelters, she said.

“It’s different than giving them money,” Bassett said. “It seems the biggest factors for homelessness is addiction, alcoholism and drug abuse.”

The meters will give residents the option to pay using cash or credit card. The total funds will be divided between Chico’s two shelters, the Jesus Center and the Torres Community Shelter.

The Jesus Center on Park Avenue offers services such as providing daily meals, showers and Bible study. House of Hope, a facility center connected to the center, aims to help women transition out of the shelter and into self-sufficient living.

The Torres Community Shelter is a larger facility that serves men, women and families with room for up to 140 people. It offers overnight shelter, showers and job and house hunting assistance.

Bassett feels one of the most important things for people to realize is that there’s a difference between homeless and transients, she said.

Transients are transitory, or not permanent, in travels. They are also considered, in some cases, to be young and able-bodied, according to Bassett.

Contrarily, homeless individuals may not be there by choice, but have become homeless as a result of losing their job or a lack of care for a physical or mental disability, she said.

Additionally, both the Jesus Center and Torres Community Shelter could use volunteers, Bassett said. Volunteers may aid their services by making beds, preparing meals or serving food.

Money collected from the red-top meters will be used to improve the lives of homeless individuals and get them off the streets so they can live a sober life, Bassett said.

“The whole idea is to give somebody an opportunity to get well, get homes and get out of that situation,” she said.

Lauren Anderson can be reached at [email protected] or @laurentaylora on Twitter.