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Ad Hoc Homeless Committee searching for solutions, some homeless want action

A sanctioned campground is one possible solution that keeps coming up. Some homeless feel it's good the council is talking about it, but won't believe it until they see it. Some organizations feel the sanctioned campground is a temporary solution.

Posted: Apr 28, 2021 11:56 PM
Updated: Apr 29, 2021 1:04 PM

CHICO, Calif. - Three Chico City Councilmembers, including Mayor Andrew Coolidge, have created an Ad-Hoc committee to work with local organizations to find solutions for the homeless throughout the city.

One potential solution that keeps popping up is a sanctioned campground somewhere in the city. 

Still, some homeless people feel all of this talk is fine, but they'll believe it when they see it.

"As we move forward and just try and find solutions to our current issue," said Coolidge in the committee's zoom meeting with several other local organizations that aim at helping the unhoused.

Councilmembers Deepika Tandon and Scott Huber are also on the homeless solutions Ad-Hoc committee and spoke with several local organizations to find answers.

One possible solution quickly arose.

"I really believe we need a campground on both ends of town," said Charles Withuhn, part of the North State Shelter Team.
We're not gonna approach solving this issue with hundreds of people in the bushes."

One of the suggested locations the committee received was near the BMX track on the south side of Chico.

Another suggested location to the committee was at the Chico Airport so that there is one on the north side and one on the south side of the city.

"People will want to come to a place that has safety," said Deanna Schwab, a board member for Safe Space. "They need to know that they and their personal possessions will be kept safe."

One organization is already stepping in.

"Could you run a campsite of 100 people? I think that's the primary question I'm asking," asked Coolidge.

"North State Shelter Team would run a campground of 50 people," responded Withuhn after 50 became a more realistic number.

"I think they need to get the land, open it up, leave it alone, go away," said Paul Wesbecher, a homeless man in Chico.

But some homeless feel it's not a done deal.

"[You] think they're going to do any of that? Are you kidding me, they've been talking about that for 25 years," he said. "Never anything."

"Solving the problem is finding work for these people," said Wesbecher pointing to the homeless in City Plaza.

And some organizations feel if the campground does come to be, it's just a temporary solution.

"[It should be] used as a vehicle to find more suitable shelter for those that are unhoused," said Laura Cootsana, Director of the Jesus Center. "To create something long term would, in turn, defeat the end goal."

Mayor Coolidge and the council members say they'll continue to discuss with city staff what is possible, then bring it forward to the council to find solutions.

Councilmember Scott Huber who is also a part of the committee sent out a statement encouraging a sanctioned campground to be discussed by the whole council.

The next Chico City Council meeting is May 4, 2021.

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