Cold weather creates problems for Chico homeless


Alex Martin

A homeless camp near Mulberry Street in Chico, Feb. 3 2021

Uncertain weather conditions have caused the homeless and transient population in Chico  to hunker down in peril. In addition to COVID-19 complications, the possibility of catching cold-related illnesses like flu looms as an atmospheric river — a storm system bringing high winds and cold rains — flows through NorCal.

Chico occasionally opens a warming center at Depot Park. However, it isn’t readily available and only opens when temperatures become life-threatening. According to a Jan. 27 press release, city staff is closely monitoring the weather in order to determine if it’s necessary to open the emergency warming shelters and will notify people when it reopens.

Chico Basic Needs is a housing program that aims to help students struggling with homelessness. It’s partnered with the Chico Housing Action Group and True North Housing Alliance. Chico Basic Needs Administrator Joe Picard said the program works closely with case managers to ensure students find housing and become self-reliant. 

“We actively work with potentially homeless students … if they’re struggling with housing, unsafe conditions or immediately homeless,” Picard said. “The first thing students should do is fill out the application. Students that seek help must fill out the Chico Basic Needs application in order to participate.”  

Three homeless shelters  located in Chico for college-aged individuals are the Jesus Center, Torres Shelter and 6th Street Center For Youth. Each shelter has its own  requirements. 

The Jesus Center only accepts people who can pass a drug test and overnight stays. Women must be 18 years old, while men must be at least 12 years old in order to stay. 

The Torres Shelter does not have an age requirement and allows people to bring prescribed medication. It’s welcome to displaced men, women and families.

The 6th Street Center For Youth is a homeless youth shelter that is only welcome to people between the ages of 14 to 24. It provides clothing, hot meals, access to a laundry and showers. Official forms of identification like birth certificates or ID can be obtained with assistance from staff. 

CalMatters, a nonprofit journalism venture did a study and found that California had more than 150,000 homeless residents in 2020. As temperatures dive into the low 30s and 40s, thousands of homeless become vulnerable to life threatening illnesses like frostbite and hypothermia. 

The National Weather Service recommends for people to stay inside when temperatures reach 40 degrees or below, since they can catch frostbite staying outside too long. Frostbite can cause permanent damage to exposed body parts, which may require amputation so it’s crucial to minimize outdoor time and activities. 

Donating essential resources like blankets, socks or food can be the life defining help that’s needed for waiting out the uncertain weather. 

Melvin Bui can be reached at [email protected] or @Melvinbuii on Twitter.