BUTTE COUNTY, Calif. - "A lot of people are scared of us homeless people because they don't understand us, they'll see us going through a PTSD moment... screaming down the street because we don't have anyone to talk to," said Melissa, who is living on the streets of Chico.
"About 5 months ago I made the decision that I was either going to end it or I was going to drop everything and find myself," said Katherine Hightower, who has been homeless for about 6 months in Chico.
The women are 2 of the 891 people living without shelter in Butte County.
The 2019 Butte Countywide Continuum of Care says that's about 100 more people than just two years ago.
This year's survey showed that nearly half of the people living on the streets say they don't want to be.
"I felt hopeless, like I was stuck. There was no way of getting out of the situation I was in. I felt like a failure," said one woman, who's now living in a shelter.
"There are a lot of people that are struggling out here that want to get better," Hightower said.
As for the other half?
"I believe a 9 to 5 job is important for the community, but not everyone should have to fall into that cookie-cutter rules," Melissa said.
With the closure of Stairways, a shelter in Chico, there are fewer beds in the county. Add in 200 now-homeless Camp Fire survivors.
"It's harder to get housing, harder to get jobs because they're being taken up, it's been a struggle," Hightower said.
So, is there a solution?
"look at all the reasons why they're homeless and see how we can help them overcome all their issues and challenges," said Jennifer Griggs of the B.C.C.O.C.
"what do you want, what would be ideal for you? I asked. "what would be ideal is somewhere I feel safe," Hightower said
The B.C.C.O.C. says it's their job to make sure that the hundreds who want help get it, so they've secured 1.4 million dollars in grants and state funding to make that possible.
They're hoping service providers will come to them with ideas of how to best use it to get more of these people off the streets and into a stable living situation.
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