Chico, Calif.--The Chico City Council approved the sale of city-owned property to the Jesus Center in a 5-2 vote Tuesday night, but that approval is just the start.
The Jesus Center is trying to buy land next to the Torres Shelter right by the fairgrounds and the idea is to have all the services available to the homeless in one place. It's something that the Jesus Center and its neighbors would both like to see happen.
"It has to go back to being a neighborhood and it's not going to do that if the Jesus Center stays on that corner," said Ed Ort, owner of Chico Yellow Cab located across from the Jesus Center.
He's become one of the most outspoken neighbors against it, saying that the homeless are destroying the neighborhood. That's why he decided to attend Tuesday night's council meeting and is happy with the possibility of the center's relocation off MLK Parkway.
"It's going to help the issue as far as having them scattered all over the city. It's going to hurt the area...how could it not," he said.
The approval of the sale is just another step forward with nothing set in stone quite yet.
Next in the process, the city will complete an appraisal on the property within the next 30-60 days because part of the agreement is to sell it at appraised value.
"The city has done what they possibly can to help this work, the Jesus Center has done what they can to help make this work, and our community partners, a lot of the service providers, are giving vital input which is huge” said Mark Orme, Chico’s City Manager.
Orme wants the community to know that they are looking at all the pros and cons associated with this move.
"It's our responsibility to ensure that we've looked under every rock, every crevice, to ensure that we didn't miss something. We can only do that when we have a plan, and that plan is still being developed by the Jesus Center," he said.
Ort is concerned that the neighborhood's problems are just going to relocate along with the center.
"They're crusaders, right? And they're on a crusade which is great, we're not. Just don't have your crusade destroy your neighborhood and the community," said Ort.
The city has a memorandum of understanding with the Jesus Center to get this project approved by next November.
Laura Cootsona, executive director of the Jesus Center, said that they will absolutely meet that deadline. There is still no exact price tag for the project, but the Jesus Center is working on getting a fundraising feasibility study for this fall to make sure they can get the funds to make this move possible.
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