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.