The Orion

Chico’s homelessness solutions are going nowhere

Photo+credit%3A+Diego+Ramirez
Photo credit: Diego Ramirez

Photo credit: Diego Ramirez

Photo credit: Diego Ramirez

Grayson Boyer

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Homelessness in Chico is one of the city’s most salient problems. Yet as we adopt increasingly aggressive policies towards the homeless population, it becomes more evident the problem is only getting worse.

According to the 2017 Homeless Point in Time Census & Survey Report, it’s estimated that 0.88 percent, or nearly 7,500 people, of the Butte County population does not have a home. Worse, this number is growing. Chico showed a 92 percent increase in homeless from 2015 to 2017 in their biennial “point in time” survey.

Although Chico is pursuing a mix of policies to tackle this problem, many of our newest laws concerning transients could be described as more militant than humanitarian.

As shown on the City of Chico Media Archive, City Council voted to swear in Park Rangers and arm them with handguns on Sept. 5. Bidwell Park is a refuge for Chico’s homeless population and by adding handguns into the mix the relationship between Park Rangers and the homeless can only become more antagonistic.

In Nov. 2013, Chico attempted to simply hide the homeless population from citizens eyes by enacting a “Sit-lie” law, prohibiting sitting and lying on sidewalks in specified areas, as seen on the City of Chico Media Archive.

This law was pointed at protecting commercial properties and preventing a loss of business downtown, but by banning specific areas Chico has only moved the homeless out of sight, not actually helping the homeless population at all.

If no one sees how bad the problem is, and no one can look at these people’s sufferings, then maybe everyone will just forget about the homeless.

Either way, the Chico taxpayer will continue to feel the impact of these laws. According to a recent academic study of Chico’s homeless, Impacts of Chico’s Public Safety Approach to Homelessness, policing the homeless population has cost the city approximately $901,833 between 2010 and 2016.

To be sure, Chico engages in more constructive policy, such as affordable housing, or implementation of homeless shelters. These are fantastic ways to assist the homeless, but as shown on the 2016-2017 City Annual Final Budget, 2016-2017’s affordable housing fund balance of $573,912 is a significant decrease from 2015-2016’s $770,334.

It’s worrying that many of Chico’s recent policies are more concerned with attacking the symptoms of a problem than rooting out the issue at hand. Arming Park Rangers or enacting “Sit-lie” policies only hide the chaos from our eyes, they don’t help the homeless. Worse, they cost the city significant money, which takes away potential funds for more constructive policy, such as affordable housing.

There’s no perfect solution to homelessness. It’s an issue that intersects with mental health and economics and is one of the most complex problems that American’s can tackle. There may be no way to completely solve homelessness.

However, Chico faces a significant choice. The city can choose to look away from the problem and delude itself into thinking that things are better, or it can face the issue at hand and actually attempt to make a difference.

Grayson Boyer can be reached at [email protected] or @gray_boyer on Twitter.

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7 Comments

7 Responses to “Chico’s homelessness solutions are going nowhere”

  1. Caterina DiGiovanna on April 2nd, 2018 4:38 am

    What help do businesses get from the city when the homeless are not only occupying business property, but stealing electricity and water, destroying property, adding to our WM overages that we pay fines for, leaving body excrement and soiled clothing around doorways, and now they are shooting up on the roof! Where is our protection and where are our rights.

  2. judy hanna on April 3rd, 2018 5:09 pm

    I am a business property owner in Chico and am experiencing the same issues. The homeless, in my opinion, want to be the way they are. Not interested in going to a shelter or church or seeking mental health help. OMG, they might have to follow rules in a shelter. They are ruining my property and increasing my expenses. Stop giving them handouts, drugs, CARDBOARD. Put up porta pottys w/T.P. around town and the parks, commercial sites like WALMART , AAA, Lock up your dumpsters, turn off your irrrigation systems . Yes, I am venting because I too am hurting, and am slowly being ruined. No one wants to rent in a filthy disgusting vandalized drug ridden stinky office complex.

  3. judy on October 24th, 2018 6:33 am

    I fully understand what you guys are going through….we live in the Grass Valley Ca. area……..If we do NOT give the homeless what they want, they either wait for people to go to work, break into that home….OR set fires in our area…..3 fires in the last year very close to our house……NOW, if you touch one of them, you end up in court, they sue you, or they get throw in JAIL for 1, that is ONE night only, for a bath, hair cut, medical attention and food, released the next day…to do this all over again…ONE GUY HAS BEEN ARRESTED 52 times!!!!! I really wished the real men of this town would do something about this….no authorities are, cops yes, but…the cops can only do so much…they know when they arrest one of these bas….rds, they will just get released the next day. Drug addicts are approaching women unloading the groceries into their car, that is when they ask for money OR get into the car….threaten little kids in front of their mother…is she does not give them money. One lady was thrown to the ground yesterday, a homeless/drug addict was sitting on top of her, ripped her blouse off yesterday….men in the parking lot stopped him…the parking lot was full of people. Yuba City is a safer place to shop, its 45 miles one way, YES, I shop there, I am not carrying mace…..For the Srs. that do not know what is going on, they are the ones being targeted….

  4. judy hanna on April 4th, 2018 3:30 pm

    You are right on.

  5. Geister Madchen on September 11th, 2018 6:13 pm

    I live on Vallombrosa and see a constant barrage of cars, including my own, broken into. We went to make dinner the other night but the food in our outside freezer had been stolen. Every time I take the dog across the street to the creek more trash and filth mounts the embankment where they camp out. Im tired of being a victim to these people.
    I speak with homeless people every chance I get to hear their story. A young 20 something healthy homeless guy down town the other day explained to me a lot of the people he knows on the street come to California because it is easier for them to be on the streets and the laws are much more lax.
    The people I talk to are very much capable and healthy to work. Many have told me directly that they were unhappy with their 9 to 5 and wanted to be free of the stresses.

  6. Bob on May 31st, 2018 3:35 pm

    Yeah I live in Chico to the town is not big enough to support a homeless population of nearly 8,000 they are literally everywhere you look thousands of dollars in merchandise gets stolen from the store where I work everyday there fights in the parking lot and excrement on every street corner. It is appalling and disgusting 3 years ago there were zero homeless people here. Every time I got to take out the trash there are several bums in the dumpster or shooting up out back near the dumpster. It won’t be long before vigilante groups take to the street as they have in the Humboldt area. The liberal government here will only allow half-baked solutions that don’t do anything. These are not tax-paying citizens these are not members of the chico community they should not be here they should be ran out of town. Every single day I have a small business owner come in to tell me that every single one of his tools has been stolen and needs to buy a $1,000 worth of tools because his were taken buy some idiot to flip for drugs. There are no good homeless people in America they are bums and they want to be homeless. You know how damn easy it is to find a job in America it’s really freaking easy. I have a dozen jobs in my back pocket at any given time. My dad went door-to-door installing peepholes after Roofing all day when my mom was pregnant to support the family. There are jobs you just have to be willing to work. And by the way affordable housing is no solution for people who refuse to work. These are degenerate scum. Oh and for anybody who still wondering why all these people arent in jail for shoplifting it’s because California decriminalized shoplifting under $1,000 worth of merchandise several years ago.

  7. Deborah Dills on June 1st, 2018 4:39 pm

    The Southern city of Fort Worth, Texas recently adopted a policy of hiring the homeless to do many jobs including picking up trash and paying them a decent wage too– $10 an hour in a state that has a $7.25 minimum wage, This is a win/win for all because it helps those who are homeless find a way back into society with dignity and allows them to also feel they can get back on their feet- even if they are felons or had other issues.
    It is time for other cities like Chico, Sacramento, Los Angeles and other cities in the USA to adopt the same program if this country stands up against poverty and homelessness.

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Chico’s homelessness solutions are going nowhere