May 6, 2016 10:10 PM by News Staff
In recent years, communities all over the North State have struggled with the growing homeless problem.
And while there are no easy answers, one North State police officer is leading a team - trying its best to balance the law with compassion as they do their part on the homeless front.
Here is this week's installment in our Hello Humankindness series in partnership with Dignity Health of Northern California.
Sergeant Scott Zuschin and his team of officers work hard to keep Chico safe and clean and they do it with compassion.
"We solve problems in the community that may be beyond the resources of patrol," Zuschin said.
Zuschin leads the Chico Police Department's Target Team, a group of officers tasked with among other duties contacting homeless people and trying to get them off the streets.
"I was under a bridge, doing what I could do to survive, stealing from Safeway, and doing drugs," said Jeremy Williams, a STAIRWAYS member Zuschin has helped over the years.
Nick Williams was contacted by Sergeant Zuschin and because of his help is now a resident of STAIRWAYS programming and has been hired as STAIRWAYs' head of maintenance.
“I got my first paycheck today, it was great,” Williams said. “I could buy what I want, pay my bills if I need to, they just gave us an opportunity."
STAIRWAYS is one of many facilities in town whose mission is to end homelessness and Zuschin and the target team work with all of them.
"We've been very successful in getting resource providers and citizens and community members to step up and assist us in solving a lot of crime and safety problems in the city right now," Zuschin said.
"It's not about a job for him, this is deep passion for him, and I’m blessed and my family is blessed to have him for a friend," said Michael Madeiros, executive director of the STAIRWAYS program.
And this passion led to STAIRWAYS awarding him its community appreciation award last month by unanimous vote.
“When you have 65 people telling you ‘you've impacted my life, I’m not under a bridge today because of you,’ that's huge," Madeiros said.
"Scott and Target Team got me off the streets, got me into a program where I now have a chance," said Alex Lawton-Duitsman.
Nick and Alex are just two of dozens of people Zuschin has helped.
"Getting a homeless person off the street and into housing is probably one of the most rewarding things we've been able to accomplish in this assignment," Zuschin said.
But that's not all, they're also cleaning up homeless encampments like under this bridge. These pictures were taken in February. Now, nobody lives here and the creek runs clean and clear.
"We're not here with the conversation on homelessness and support services without him," Madeiros said.
"It was a reminder to me of why I got into this in the first place, to help people," Williams said. "If mike and STAIRWAYS and Sgt. Scott hadn't come along, I'd probably be in prison or dead."
And because of stories like that, zuschin and his team will continue to target homelessness until everyone gets the help they need and that makes sergeant Scott Zuschin this week's Hello Humankindness nominee.
If you know anyone or any group deserving to be nominated for their acts of human kindness, go to our website and click on contests to make the nomination.