Chico, Calif.--Neighbors who live in the area around the Jesus Center turned out for a meeting Wednesday night to express their concerns, but tensions quickly escalated.
Neighbors said it's because they're sick and tired of having to deal with the homeless population using the bathroom on their properties, stealing from them, and openly doing drugs.
The Jesus Center said they understand it's a frustrating issue, but it's a complex one.
"I'm asking for help, you guys want us out of your neighborhood,” said Laura Cootsona, Executive Director of the Jesus Center.” In response, Ed Ort, owner of the Chico Yellow Cab said, “no, that's exactly the point, that's so condescending it's unbelievable."
Ort’s business is located on Locust Street, just a block away from the Jesus Center. He was just one of several that attended Wednesday night's meeting because he wants the center to know just how bad the situation has gotten from the homeless community.
Neighbors didn't hold back, expressing their frustration.
"I've got feces in my back alley, I've had guys hop over the fence and steal my daughter's bicycle, and I have guys sleeping on my porch," said one neighbor.
"They're coming in our store, they're eating what they want to get, and they're just walking straight out," said an employee at the Circle K near the Jesus Center.
"Every day, all the time I have to deal with this kind of thing, and if someone dies the blood's on your hands," Ort said.
Cootsona said she understands the frustrations.
"It's not the Jesus Center's job to solve the homelessness in Chico,” said Cootsona. In response, Ort told her, "It's also not the Jesus Center's job to cause a disruption in the neighborhood either."
Cootsona wanted the neighbors to know that not everyone using the center is engaging in the behavior that neighbors were complaining about, but many begged to differ.
Cootsona said, "I have woman upstairs working their ass off to turn their lives around.” In response, Ort told her “everyone in this community is working their ass off."
Tensions did eventually ease during the meeting, and Cootsona simply asked the neighbors for their help, saying for the last two years the Jesus Center has been trying to relocate.
"We have grown too big, the complexity of homeless is way different today than it was in 1998 when we moved out of Park Avenue and in over here, and this is not the right place."
The meeting ended with Cootsona encouraging all the frustrated neighbors to take their concerns to this coming Tuesday's city council meeting, hoping to put more pressure to continue discussion on the center's relocation to MLK Parkway behind the Torres Shelter.
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- Chico City Council approves concept to relocate Jesus Center
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- Jesus Center in Chico halt plans to relocate for now
- Chico City Council Paves Way for Jesus Center Move
- Jesus Center withdraws from low-barrier shelter project in Chico