CFOTS Founder Patrick Newman Named Chico News and Review “Local Hero” of 2018

Chico Friends on the Street founder Patrick Newman was named a Chico News and Review “Local Hero” of 2018. The paper notes that “Newman and his allies…do a lot for the city’s down and out,” highlighting the fact that “over the course of the past nearly three years, they’ve collectively handed out somewhere in the range of 7,000 bagged lunches, hundreds of blankets and sleeping bags, and hundreds of boxes of clothing and toiletries.” By his own admission, Newman does not claim to be offering permanent solutions to Chico’s homeless problem. Rather, “[h]is efforts are to offer a counter-narrative to the criminalization route the city has adopted. The main goal—even with the food distribution—is to make it clear that homeless folks have a right to exist.” Read the full story here. Bravo Patrick!

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Why there are so many unsheltered homeless people on the West Coast

New research from UCSF explores the causes of homelessness in California. According to the author of the study, Prof. Margot Kushel, “[s]ome assume that homelessness is so common on the West Coast because people move here when they become homeless, but data do not support this. Most people experience homelessness close to where they lost their housing….Instead, the high rate of homelessness can be attributed to the lack of affordable housing…”

Read the entire piece here (5-minute read): Why there are so many unsheltered homeless people on the West Coast

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Latest CN&R Coverage

The Chico News and Review covered Chico Friends on the Street’s presence at the April 3, 2018 meeting of the Chico City Council.

Between Melissa Holmberg’s challenge to Mayor Sean Morgan’s callous sentiments, Carol Eberling’s recollection of days gone by when the government supported impoverished citizens in need of housing assistance, and Professor Robert Jones’ unflinching criticism of a homeless demonization narrative popular in the community, the diversity of voices all spoke to the core beliefs of Chico Friends on the Street.

Read the article here. View the video of the above speakers—and more not mentioned in the article—here. For your viewing convenience, check out the timestamps for each speaker in our April 4 blog post.

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In her April 5 editorial, Chico News & Review editor Melissa Daugherty calls on Sean Morgan to account for cruel words he was quoted as saying in reference to homeless folks in Chico, as well as for the hostility he directed toward the cities of Redding and Oroville.

Kudos to the CN&R for holding our elected officials accountable. Read the editorial here.

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CN&R: What Chico Friends on the Street does

The Chico News and Review covered Chico Friends on the Street’s weekly protest and food distribution to homeless citizens last Sunday, and captured a sense of what CFOTS stands for.

Newman has a blunt response to any ordinance banning public feeding: “It’s unconstitutional.” Homeless people have a right to use public spaces to meet their survival needs, especially when nothing else does, he says.

He is among those who see homelessness as a symptom of the social dislocation that has resulted in large measure from the inequality in wealth in America that was exacerbated by the Great Recession. With housing costs at historic highs, even people with good jobs have trouble paying for shelter.

Newman and many others believe the necessary first step toward ending homelessness is the obvious one: find or build housing for the homeless. Once they have roofs over their heads, they can deal with the personal problems—alcoholism, mental illness, post-traumatic stress disorder, debilitating poverty—that put them on the streets in the first place.

Where “housing first” has been implemented—Utah, for example—it has been successful.

Many cities, however, are going the route the Chico City Council has taken: criminalizing the behavior of the homeless in order to force them out of downtown and, even better, out of town.

Though it wasn’t mentioned, we’d like to note that Chico Friends on the Street formed in early 2016 in response to the passage of the Offenses Against Public Property ordinance in September/October 2015. One of the founding principles of the organization is to protest and resist unjust criminalization of the poor and homeless. (See Homeless Watershed Dates here).

Read the CN&R article in its entirety here.

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Chico News and Review Slams Mayor’s Attack on Homeless Advocacy Group

Chico News and Review editor Melissa Daugherty today rebuked Chico City Mayor Sean Morgan’s performance in a recent Action News piece in which he mocks local homeless advocates (like Chico Friends on the Street) for providing sustenance to poor and displaced Chicoans (a spectacle that included a revealing and bizarre tirade against public feedings). Admonishing the Mayor’s views as “the very worst type of provincialism,” the editorial chronicles a number of the many “lowlights” of Morgan’s tenure on the City Council, including his role in pushing through anti-poor ordinances like criminalizing lying down in public while legalizing the confiscation of whatever meager belongings the poor might carry. Kudos to Melissa Daugherty for speaking truth to power in calling out the Mayor for his regressive politics, disenfranchisement of the poor, and callousness toward the plight of the city’s poorest. Fortunately for Morgan, the City Council has yet to pass an ordinance criminalizing public displays of idiocy. Read the editorial in its entirety here.

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San Diego group challenges city on unconstitutional ban against public feeding

In October of 2017, the city of El Cajon, California enacted an ordinance prohibiting the distribution of food on city-owned property. City officials claimed the ban was meant to protect citizens, including homeless folks, from contracting Hepatitis A.

It’s one thing to target a disease outbreak, and another to systematically criminalize and deprive homeless people under the thinly veiled facade of concern over public health.

In January of 2018, police arrested and issued misdemeanor citations to about a dozen members of the homeless advocacy group, Break the Ban, which distributed breakfast bars, fruit, and socks, to homeless citizens.

After the homeless advocacy group promised legal action against the city on constitutional grounds, the city of El Cajon lifted the ban, and dropped all charges against the dozen protesters.

Chico Friends on the Street stands with Break the Ban and other anti-authoritarian groups who join in solidarity with the poor in the struggle for freedom, justice, and democracy.

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Clearing the air: misinformation in local news coverage

On March 6, Action News characterized Chico Friends on the Street (CFOTS) as a “guerilla” feeding group, claiming that our actions directly contribute to the litter problem in Chico. Inaccuracies in the report include pairing footage of a littered Lindo Channel with voiceover from the Plaza decrying the fact that “garbage is everywhere, it is left everywhere!” The fact of the matter is that CFOTS is diligent about picking up any and all trash generated from our activities as well as other litter in the Plaza. Watch the news report here: Guerilla Feeding

In response to the report, CFOTS requested that Action News provide a more accurate and balanced view of the situation. On March 11, Action News returned to the Plaza, this time to observe CFOTS at work, interviewing CFOTS founder Patrick Newman: Chico Group Helps Hungry Residents in Need

In response, Mayor Sean Morgan indicated publicly that in providing food and supplies to desperate citizens, CFOTS is “making the problem worse” and that “city leaders are prepared to take action.” Unfortunately, that action has nothing to do with alleviating poverty and everything to do with making the poor invisible. View the article here: Chico Mayor: City is Considering Options on Homeless Public Feedings

Chico Friends on the Street maintains that homeless folks have a right to use our public spaces and that attempts to demonize, criminalize, contain, and deprive poor people of basic needs and their constitutional rights is corrosive to our democracy and harmful to all. Read more about our Core Beliefs.

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Jesus Center’s board has conflicting interests

The following letter appeared in the Chico Enterprise-Record on January 8, 2018:

Jesus Center’s board has conflicting interests

A letter writer claims I’ve “displayed contempt for the Jesus Center.” Well, I do have concerns.

When former Jesus Center Director Bill Such was fired two years ago, our community should have been outraged. Instead, there was indifference. To all appearances, a good man was ousted by a business-heavy board of directors (six realtors, a police officer and a wealthy farmer) for not playing ball with various commercial interests, those determined to drive the homeless from the downtown.

Under new management, we see a strong alliance between the Jesus Center and the most powerful, propertied people in Chico; when the Jesus Center should be an unequivocal voice of homeless advocacy — and not beholden to the Downtown Chico Business Association. The plan to remove our only downtown soup kitchen, the source of food and clothing for hundreds of people, is not in accord with the basic needs of people living in our public space.

Jesus was a strange man. He instructed his followers to do strange things, like feed and clothe poor people, without condition. He didn’t ask for Social Security numbers or talk about “data-driven” approaches or intake facilities, as is now happening at the Jesus Center.

Maybe it’s time for a name change. The “Dr. Robert G. Marbut Center” has a nice ring to it.

— Patrick Newman, Chico

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Bussed Out: How America Moves its Homeless

An 18-month investigation by The Guardian reveals that for many cities struggling with homelessness, the preferred solution involves a one-way ticket out of town, part of what the authors refer to as “America’s homeless relocation program.”

The investigation finds that while schemes like San Francisco’s “Homeward Bound” program are helping some, they also “serve the interests of cities, which view free bus tickets as a cheap and effective way of cutting their homeless populations.”

According to the piece, “[p]eople are routinely sent thousands of miles away after only a cursory check by authorities to establish they have a suitable place to stay once they get there. Some said they feel pressured into taking tickets, and others described ending up on the streets within weeks of their arrival.”

In case you don’t know, a similar program exists here in Chico, going by the name of H.E.L.P. (Homeless Evaluation Liason Program). One Florida homeless advocate sees programs like these as nothing more than a “smoke-and-mirrors ruse tantamount to shifting around the deck chairs on the Titanic rather than reducing homelessness. Once they get you out of their city, they really don’t care what happens to you.”

You can read the entire article here, and watch Democracy Now!’s coverage of the piece here.

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