Downtown help center should not be eliminated

The following letter appeared in the Chico Enterprise-Record on October 30, 2017:

Downtown help center should not be eliminated

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]).

— Patrick Newman, Chico

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