Mayor Randall Stone calls special meeting on need for warming centers

Mayor+Stone+called+for+a+special+council+meeting+Tuesday+to+address+the+issue+of+warming+centers+in+harsh+temperatures.+Photo+credit%3A+Jack+Lewis

Mayor Stone called for a special council meeting Tuesday to address the issue of warming centers in harsh temperatures. Photo credit: Jack Lewis

Chico Mayor Randall Stone and council members Karl Ory and Scott Huber ordered a controversial special council meeting to address the issue of setting up warming centers Tuesday.

The meeting, which took place in the Council Chambers in downtown Chico at 5:30 p.m., sought to provide a strategy to set these centers up and gave the community the ability to give the council feedback.

“I feel like a failure when I look at this,” Huber said. “We’ve had four deaths on the streets in the past year, which may be due to the weather”.

Huber went on to add that the Jesus Center, which is the main shelter in downtown Chico, is filled with people sleeping under the outside overhang due to being at max capacity. He added that last year the policy of adopting these shelters was hastily created, hence why the special council meeting was called.

“Temperature is not the only thing to take into consideration when making these shelters,” Huber said. “Strong winds, precipitation, and humidity are also a concern.”

Huber backed up his reasoning by stating several policies adopted by cities such as San Francisco, Santa Clara, and the State of Washington regarding warming centers. He provided data about how each location had rules that only allowed the creation of warming shelters if a certain temperature had been reached, if a certain amount of rainfall over the course of several days had occurred and other factors such as wind and humidity.

In 2018, Chico only enacted warming centers if the temperature was at or below 45 degrees Fahrenheit and rain had fallen for five days straight. Councilmember Ann Schwab added that this criteria was only met several times during the year.

Huber touched on a pre-existing deal with the Jesus Center that allowed for city funding for up to 10 nights in winter and 10 days in summer for temperature control, adding that there was a surplus amount of money for more days if necessary

When it came time for the public to voice their opinions, Chico resident Rob Berry approached the stand.

Berry strongly objected to the calling of a special meeting to discuss the issue, stating that the council and in particular Mayor Stone should be “ashamed of themselves.”

Berry questioned the council on why it was necessary for this issue to need immediate attention, citing that the council gave false notice that the meeting was scheduled for 4 p.m., which was then at the last-minute rescheduled to 5:30 p.m.

He stated that this “forced everyone in the community to scramble” in order to make the meeting. Berry added that this practice was causing the council to be “looking for a lawsuit.”

Laura Cootsona, a representative from the Jesus Center, took the podium to add that it is not easy to extend the days given to the center for warming days. She added that additional warming shelters should not be added if the center has ample space.

“[The council] should consider extending resources towards other outreach programs for Safe Space,” Cootsona said, rather than focusing on additional warming spaces.

It remains to be seen what policy the council decides to enact regarding the issue of warming spaces, as a decision has not yet been reached.

Jack Lewis can be reached at [email protected]