The following letters appeared in the Chico News and Review on April 5, 2018:
Re “Compassion above all else”
I am writing to thank you for your well-balanced editorial regarding the activities of Chico Friends on the Street (CFOTS) and Chico First.
Several weeks ago, Chico First set up a booth in the plaza on Sunday while CFOTS passed out food. I was at the plaza with CFOTS, introduced myself to Rob Berry, and invited him and the others to come see for themselves what we were doing. Unfortunately, no one took me up on it; it all felt rather silly, as if we were rival gangs rather than concerned citizens in a public space.
My experience has been that CFOTS leaves the plaza cleaner then when they arrived. The claim that an occasional shared meal is keeping people on the streets is specious as well. There are currently around 1,100 homeless humans in Chico. There aren’t enough shelter beds or housing available for all of them. What is keeping them on the streets is not a PB&J sandwich.
I live in Chico and want it to be clean and safe, but I also seek respectful solutions rather than criminalization for those who are living on the streets. I will continue to seek common ground with any group working toward those goals.
— Angela McLaughlin
Editor’s note: For more on this, see Second & Flume, page 5.
Re “Under pressure”
Over two years ago, Chico Friends on the Street began a protest in response to the further criminalization of homelessness, implemented through the Offenses Against Public Property Ordinance.
Our protest takes place in Chico City Plaza, where we meet and share food and clothing. This has raised the hackles of landlords and members of Chico First. At the council meeting on March 20, we were pilloried for our activities and the council was asked to prohibit us from sharing food.
I found the testimony to be wildly exaggerated. (Especially with respect to managing litter—which we have consistently controlled.) We were also accused of engaging in “political theater.”
There is theater in protest: We are in a visible public space, affirming the rights of all people to coexist. I agree with Mayor Sean Morgan when he says we are “empowering” the homeless—at least I hope this is true. The homeless have at least some power when present among us, especially as the alternative to exclusion through deprivation, criminalization and “consolidation”—the interdependent devices now promoted by our local authoritarians.
— Patrick Newman