Deep freeze threatens lives of unsheltered in Chico

"They understand it's cold! You need to be in somewhere, regardless.. They offer the roof to sleep - there's no showers, they feed you, and then it's bedtime" said Wetzel.

Posted: Feb 20, 2018 5:35 PM

"We have literally slept on these sidewalks many, many cold nights." said Robert Wetzel. "We've actually had a couple of friends not wake up in the morning, due to the weather. And it's sad."

Wetzel's spent more than a decade in Chico with no permanent shelter. And when temperatures plunge below freezing, things go from tough to outright dangerous.

"How can you say to someone they don't have a right to be warm? And move them along at all hours, like the security guards do, knowing they can go home to their warm beds, and not even think twice about how maybe that person they moved along might not even wake up" said Wetzel.

During this very cold time of year, the non-profit "Safe Space" will set up as an emergency shelter. But they only have capacity for about 60 people.

"They understand it's cold! You need to be in somewhere, regardless. They offer the roof to sleep - there's no showers, they feed you, and then it's bedtime" said Wetzel.

The simple service is enough - for those who make it in.

"This year for the first time since we've been operating, someone died while we were open - it was a previous guest which made it even more personal. But every year, the weeks before and after we open, we see people dying on the street," said Rick Narad, a Safe Space shelter operations manager.

The city of Chico's never set up an emergency shelter - and the city manager says that may something for the county to decide.

"As far as declaring a cold catastrophe, which it is, they haven't done that. Contrast that with Sacramento where they had 2 or 3 people die right outside of city hall and the mayor immediately opened a cold shelter for a few weeks at least, to get people through the worst part of the winter," sad Narad.

Nonetheless, the Torres Shelter still has room for about 15 more people, but there's a sobriety requirement that makes it hard for some qualify, especially when the weather turns so suddenly.

"It's a survival thing, not even a human thing anymore. It's just ... 'I have to survive'. Can you blame someone for wanting to be warm?" wonders Wetzel.

California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 114733

Reported Deaths: 4217
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Los Angeles560112386
Riverside7982331
San Diego7481269
Orange6474147
San Bernardino5355204
Alameda347096
Santa Clara2776141
San Francisco257043
Kern232238
San Mateo216584
Tulare189789
Imperial175129
Fresno174335
Santa Barbara164912
Contra Costa146838
Sacramento142958
Ventura115234
Kings11225
San Joaquin90834
Stanislaus74429
Sonoma5644
Monterey54510
Solano51722
Marin48314
Merced2837
San Luis Obispo2711
Santa Cruz2172
Placer2179
Yolo21124
Napa1133
Madera1062
Humboldt1013
El Dorado960
San Benito872
Butte510
Del Norte460
Sutter462
Nevada411
Shasta394
Mono371
Yuba301
Mendocino300
Lake210
Inyo201
Mariposa161
Glenn160
Calaveras150
Amador100
Siskiyou70
Colusa70
Lassen50
Plumas40
Tuolumne40
Tehama41
Alpine20
Sierra10
Trinity10
Unassigned00
Chico
Clear
88° wxIcon
Hi: 97° Lo: 67°
Feels Like: 88°
Oroville
Clear
91° wxIcon
Hi: 97° Lo: 67°
Feels Like: 91°
Paradise
Clear
88° wxIcon
Hi: 89° Lo: 67°
Feels Like: 88°
Chester
Clear
76° wxIcon
Hi: 80° Lo: 52°
Feels Like: 76°
Red Bluff
Clear
93° wxIcon
Hi: 97° Lo: 65°
Feels Like: 93°
Willows
Clear
88° wxIcon
Hi: 99° Lo: 65°
Feels Like: 88°
The Heat Advisory will stay in place through Thursday evening. Cooler temperatures and the potential for active weather is on the way as we head into your weekend.
KHSL Severe
KHSL Radar
KHSL Temperatures

Community Events