Chico Friends on the Street was founded in January of 2016, as a protest against the criminalization of poverty and homelessness.
We hold the position that the only honorable way to “solve” the “homeless problem” is to house people (“housing first”), across the entire nation, and provide necessary services. Since our nation is failing, at the very least we must accommodate, respect and befriend those living in our public spaces. We must not profile, roust, ticket or arrest people living in the public space.
We see a great danger in the erosion of civil liberties. To resist this erosion is to resist authoritarianism in its broadest sense; that is, the drift toward life in a police state.
Our Sunday outreach in the town square (Plaza Park) is meant as a highly visible validation of the rights of the homeless to live in the public space, with all civil liberties respected. Each Sunday we meet to distribute food, clothing and other necessities. We also form friendships with those living in the public space. We are saying, “I’m here to affirm your right to be in this space, one citizen to another.”
Friends on the Street is an advocacy group. Whenever possible, we speak truth to power. We seek to influence the community on behalf of those living on the streets. This includes letter writing, attending meetings, developing protests and dialogue with other citizens.
We hold the following as core beliefs of our coalition:
1. We strongly oppose all criminalization of homelessness and poverty.
2. We learn the names of the homeless in our community and engage them in conversation when possible.
3. We give material assistance to the homeless, without any agenda of reform or salvation, and in any form that will lend itself to their greater well-being.
4. We do not naively assume all homeless people are “good,” any more than any other subset of humanity.
5. We do not report the activities of the homeless unless they are they are a danger to themselves or others. (51-50 CWIC.)
6. We believe in peaceful coexistence with the homeless and we support their use of the public space.
7. We make a good-faith effort to understand the major disabilities of those on the streets. (Brain injury [about 40%], schizophrenia, depression, PTSD, childhood abuse, addiction, etc.)
8. We believe that hiding and further marginalizing America’s dispossessed is counterproductive, being a form of denial, disrespect and erasure of their very person-hood.
9. We do not dramatize the failings of the homeless and we discourage the repetition of such stories.
10. We support “solutions,” such as greater access to shelter and social services, while recognizing that in our current political climate, immediate and comprehensive success is unattainable.
11. We seek to build a culture of greater inclusion and understanding with people on the street, knowing this is fundamental to the success of a democracy.
12. We recognize the primary causes of homelessness to be structural and institutional, and reject the simplistic notion that individuals live on the streets due to imprudent decisions.
13. We see the unnecessary suffering of Chico’s marginalized poor as a local and visible example of unnecessary suffering experienced globally, by all oppressed sentient beings.
Some Homeless Watershed Dates, Chico, California, 2013-2017
- “Sitting and Lying Ordinance” adopted, November 19, 2013
- Orchard Church removed from City Plaza, Winter of 2013
- [Five month protest in plaza, due to Orchard Church removal, Fall/Winter/Spring 2013-2014]
- Passage of major “Offenses Against Public Property Ordinance,” September 15, 2015 (Passed on a 6-1 vote. Ayes: Coolidge, Fillmer, Schwab, Stone, Morgan, Sorensen; Noes: Ritter)
- Jesus Center Director Bill Such (champion of the “hospitality” model) fired, Fall of 2015 (Wrote letter opposing the above ordinance.)
- [Chico Friends on the Street begins feeding/clothing distribution each Sunday in Chico City Plaza to protest Offenses Against Public Property Ordinance, January 3, 2016]
- Expansion of “Offenses Against Public Property Ordinance,” adopted, April 5, 2016
- Robert Marbut and Lloyd Pendleton visit Chico, Fall of 2016
- The Jesus Center, under Director Laura Cootsona, retains Robert Marbut, Spring of 2017
- Robert Marbut speaks to GCHTF, demonizing homeless men and describing a “deep dive” study of homelessness in Chico, Spring of 2017
- The Jesus Center limits services and attempts to close the Free Store, Spring of 2017
- [Friends on the Street actively opposes Free Store closure and prevails]
- 24 hour restrooms opened for 90 days; deemed a failure, Spring of 2017
- Plaza restrooms locked early, Summer of 2017
- Tyler Rushing shot to death in title company restroom, July 2017
- Jesus Center/Laura Cootsona proposes multi-million dollar Marbut-style facility/compound near fairgrounds—with downtown/Park Avenue location no longer providing direct services, October 2017
Mayor Sean Morgan, during the State of the City address, proposes the development of a “community court” for the purpose of more efficiently prosecuting “quality-of-life” violations—violations due to the enforcement of laws which criminalize homelessness, January 25, 2018
The City of Chico, by a council vote of 7-0, gives final approval to a Memorandum of Understanding, calling for the “relocation” of the Jesus Center (the downtown soup kitchen) to a “consolidation” center, or “point-of-intake” near the Silver Dollar Fair Grounds, February 7, 2018