Many say homelessness in Chico has really increased in the last few years, and there continues to be a debate about what to do.
Today we spoke with some people on the streets about what life is like and some of the challenges. Many did not want to go on camera, only one man did, but a few of them had similar things to say: they're homeless because they just want to be left alone and do what they want.
“I can go sleep in the woods like an adult, like an animal, which is perfectly normal,” said Sai, who’s been homeless in Chico for 6 years.
“I went traveling for too long, became too much of a dumb hippie. Now I’m recovering from that, trying to go back into the workforce so I can contribute to my species.”
He says every day, his main goal is really to just survive.
“Find food, don't starve, and try to camp far enough away from downtown so I don't have to deal with tweakers and thieves.”
We talked a bit about people spontaneously feeding the homeless in the plaza; he, of course, liked the idea.
The criticism has been that simply giving food does not do much to actually help better the situation and help people get off the streets.
“If you want to trade the cheeseburger for a house, I’m down. That sounds great,” he said.
He hates that all homeless people tend to get lumped together.
“That all homeless people are lazy, entitled, or addicted to drugs. Which is only true with some of us.”
He wants a job, and is planning on getting one eventually after get gets an ID, but says once you become homeless, it's really hard to get out and get a job without having a car or a place to live.
“What if you wake up in the bushes a little bit after you were supposed to and you're late for work in the first week? They're going to fire you.”
We asked why not take advantage of the local services or go somewhere like the Torres Shelter.
“Because the Torres Shelter treats me like a toddler. If I want to put a bottle of wine in my face and have a good time, I should be allowed to do so. I'm not going to cause a ruckus and vomit in somebody's backyard.”
So at the end of the day, for him at least, being homeless is a choice he's deliberately making.
“I just want freedom. I just want to be free. Free to suffer, free to thrive, free to just live my life.”
He says he's also seen an increase in the amount of homeless people in Chico but doesn’t know why that's happening. But said if the city would like to help, he thinks tiny homes would be a great start.