[Note: The letter below was later accepted for publication.]
Dear Chico and Butte County Citizens,
Having a centrally located, downtown Chico facility, where the most desperate people can get food and clothing, is beyond charitable. It’s a matter of life and death. People will suffer and die without the Jesus Center on Park Avenue.
The notion that a mentally and physically challenged street population can ride buses and zip over to MLK Parkway to get meals and warm, dry clothes is not realistic. We need more centers, not less. (My time in the downtown, meeting with the homeless, has done nothing but reinforce this perception.)
It’s obvious why the Park Avenue location is being targeted for closure: Many people want to remove the homeless from our highly visible public spaces. Short of real housing solutions (addressing the needs of those with severe mental illness, brain injuries, PTSD, addiction issues, etc.) — which are beyond reach in our bizarre political climate — homeless numbers will increase.
I’ve written two letters to the E-R ([email protected]) and one to the CN&R ([email protected]) . My last letter to the E-R was rejected (see below); seems I’m over my quota. I’m writing you to ask if you would be willing to write a letter in support of the downtown facility.
- The Jesus Center on Park Avenue has reduced suffering for thousands of people, by supplying food and clean clothes.
- Because the Jesus Center is centrally located, it is highly accessible to people with mental and physical limitations.
- We need more points of contact for the homeless, not less.
- Building a Robert Marbut-style compound near the Silver Dollar Speedway is not a solution to homelessness. It’s a way of hiding the poor.
- The Jesus Center has spent thousands of dollars on the consulting services of Marbut, but we do not accept Marbut’s vision for the future of social services or housing.
- Instead of dedicating city land to a Marbut-style compound, better to establish tiny house communities or other housing.
Please feel free to contact me if you want to explore this issue. It’s complicated. I met with Jesus Center Director Laura Cootsona twice and I’ve heard Marbut speak. There are many layers to this issue — political, cultural and economic.
Letter rejected by the E-R:
Letter writer Greg Cootsona is understandably loyal to his wife, Jesus Center Director Laura Cootsona. But, the question is whether we, as citizens and donors, have sound reasons for supporting Laura Cootsona’s present agenda.
The Jesus Center brand was built on the “hospitality model.” This has meant that a person, in absolutely dire straits, can go to one place in Chico and get a meal and clothing, without judgment. Without being fixed or saved. In the hospitality model, restoration, modest though it may be, is embedded in every act of generosity. (Matt 25:35-36)
In contrast, there is another, paternalistic model, where people are seen as children to be “navigated.” The Jesus Center paid Robert Marbut thousands of dollars to help redirect its mission. In Marbut’s view, facilities in downtown areas, offering food and clothing, are simply enabling the poor. Marbut offers behavior modification camps instead; they segregate and hide the poor— a desirable outcome for many of America’s affluent citizens — but, they don’t get people into housing. (For an honorable alternative, Google: “Lloyd Pendleton housing first”.)
For years I’ve been getting to know Chico’s homeless, in the public space. Our centrally located, downtown facility — offering food and warm, dry clothing — saves lives. It reduces suffering. It should not be eliminated. (This is a complicated subject. Anyone interested in sharing more in-depth information, please contact us at [email protected].)