Chico News and Review Editorial: Compassion above all else

Amidst a flurry of news coverage of Chico Friends on the Street and the mounting opposition to its actions by local groups and city officials, the latest Chico News and Review editorial, “Compassion above all else: Efforts to further criminalize homelessness solve nothing and make people more miserable,” contextualizes homelessness in Chico and takes a stance against criminalization of homeless folks.

The editorial notes the systemic causes of poverty and invites cleanup groups like Chico First to recognize and support proven solutions, rather than ineffective, punitive non-solutions:

We get Chico First’s frustrations with the side effects, including panhandling and litter. We understand wanting to keep the environment “clean and safe.” But we also know that demonizing this already marginalized population isn’t the answer. Nor is making their lives more difficult by codifying laws targeting them, such as the proposal to outlaw food giveaways in the city center.

Indeed, Chico First members would be wise to expend their time and energy on efforts that are proven to mitigate homelessness. At the top of that list, based on a growing body of research, is housing first. That’s the model in which people are immediately placed into stable living environments—it’s at that point they are more likely to successfully address the underlying issues that led to life on the streets.

Read the editorial here.

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Chico News and Review Editorial: Jesus Center Plan “Lacks Transparency”

A recent editorial at the Chico News and Review titled “Plan lacks transparency: We have more questions than answers about the Jesus Center’s efforts to centralize homeless services” criticizes the Jesus Center for it’s lack in transparency both in it’s planning and decision-making procedures surrounding the proposed moving of the Center away from the downtown and in revealing the cost of hiring homeless-consultant/hater Robert Marbut. The editorial asks

“How much was Marbut paid by the Jesus Center? We don’t know, because [Jesus Center executive Director Laura] Cootsona refuses to tell the CN&R. We do know that he was paid more than $100,000 for his work in Sarasota County, Fla., where, according to the Daytona Beach News-Journal, the region ‘ended up with very little direct benefit.’ We should note that this isn’t the only instance in which the Jesus Center has been secretive about its budget. This newspaper’s attempts to simply report on the success of its annual Run for Food event has been met with a refusal to share that information as well.”

The editorial concludes that “[b]efore the city agrees to a lease of the taxpayer-owned property, there needs to be a much more thorough vetting of this potential project.” Kudos to the CNR for shining a light on one of many suspect aspects of this proposed Jesus Center move.

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Two possible futures…

The first video is the perimeter of Robert Marbut’s Haven for Hope (Marbut is CEO), in Texas.  Little video is available on what’s inside–and what I’ve seen is not reassuring.  Not much different from a prison:

By contrast, the second video is about “housing first,” in Vancouver, BC:

The difference is the same old difference: humanism/liberty vs authoritarianism/coercion.  We get to decide (at least in theory) which direction America will go.

Marbut’s influence is being felt here in Chico; he’s a paid consultant.  The police are relocating the homeless with bus tickets “home.”  (Any oversight on this program or the results?  Or is getting them out of town good enough?) Restrooms are closed ten hours each day.  A fully funded (apparently overstaffed) CPD profiles and rousts the homeless, like never before.  The homeless report having their IDs and possessions seized.  Newly employed private security guards are all over town (the plaza, Safeway, Costco, etc.), misinforming and rousting the homeless–working with CPD. Ticketing and arrests continue.  On July 23, a homeless man was shot in the restroom of downtown business–the business was closed and the public was not at risk.  Was every effort made to wait-out the man in question, who was not in possession of a firearm?   IMHO, Chico is responding with all the earmarks of a proto-police state and the public sleeps.

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