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Some public outcry against plans to move Jesus Center

"In all cities in the world, the homeless congregate around parks, so how do they get the warm clothing, the showers?" asked Boxall.

Posted: Nov 3, 2017 12:15 PM

"For those who are in dire straits, you need dry clothing, you need a meal, the Jesus Center is there to provide it for you and it's in a very accessible location," said Susanna Boxall, a Chico resident who's expressing concern that the Jesus Center may be moving.

For decades, the Jesus Center on Park Avenue has been a central lifeline serving up food and help to the poor and homeless community in Chico.

"It's close to downtown and on a bus line. For folks who are mobility impaired, you can easily get to the Jesus center and get to these resources," said Boxall.

This Fall, a plan to relocate the center to the south side of town became public. And though there's a lot of support, there's also been some very strong objections.

"In all cities in the world, the homeless congregate around parks, so how do they get the warm clothing, the showers?" asked Boxall.

"The reality is that there are 1900 people experiencing homelessness and they're all throughout the community, there's not one location that's perfect," said Jesus Center Executive Director Laura Cootsona.

Cootsona says that as the population they serve continues to grow, staying at the Park Avenue location is really not an option.

"We have outgrown this purely residential neighborhood ... Our hope is that Behavioral Health and medical facilities will co-locate with us, that will mitigate the transportation needs, and we'll have shelter beds, a lot more shelter beds," said Cootsona.

"We have shelters but that's like a band-aid," worried Boxall.

Another critic has written several letters in local papers, taking specific issue with the center's new consultant, Robert Marbut, calling him "right-winged" and saying he "believes the poor need to be "transformed".

"I'm just surprised that taking care of the poor is so partisan, I see it as a universal need to take special attention to the poor, we believe based on our faith tradition that Good created each person and loves each person," said Cootsona.

Nonetheless, moving the center will likely minimize the transient presence in the downtown area. A positive for many, but not for all.

"When we move all the resources to the edge of town, we're under the illusion that we're doing something, because we don't see them in the plaza anymore, but all we've done is pushed people away," said Boxall.

The plans are still in their infancy stage and no definitive plan has been set for the move.

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Gusty winds and very dry conditions are continuing to result in a Red Flag Warning for high fire danger today. Temperatures will also be much warmer this afternoon. Dry and mild weather returns on Wednesday and continues through this weekend.
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