At last Tuesday’s council meeting council heard from a citizens coalition called, Clean and Safe. They represent property and business owners in downtown Chico as well as representatives from homeless shelters and other providers for indigents. This includes the Jesus Center, one of Chico’s better known homeless shelters.
The coalition claimed Chico has a serious and growing problem with the homeless population. They’re taking over the City Center Plaza and chasing away customers from downtown businesses. They’re also taxing the resources of agencies that help the needy and nobody seems to have an answer what to do about it.
A few business owners and employees recounted their clashes with the homeless who frequently defecate on their property, aggressively panhandle and in general terms, chase away their customers. They say the downtown is not safe and it looks dirty. Business is suffering major economic downturn thanks to a large homeless population.
Members from the Jesus Center and local churches reported that Chico has gained a national reputation for being a great place for free food, shelter and other helpful things. This revelation came when the homeless were interviewed at the shelters. They frequently claim to have heard about Chico’s friendly abundance in their home states far from California. Some of these homeless travelers were from as far away as Tennessee and North Carolina. Chico, they reported, is now on the map of favorite places that provide great care for the homeless. Seems our success at helping the homeless is also contributing to our economic woes.
People that give money to panhandlers are part of the problem. Several area mental health professionals and shelter workers said that enabling panhandling makes their job much harder. “When people give directly to a homeless person they’re allowing them to have one more day on the streets. That’s one more day they will not be confronting the issues they need to deal with and one more day they will stay away from councelling.” They said people who give money to panhandlers are hurting the very people they think they are trying to help. These caring professionals noted there is plenty of food and shelter available for homeless, the money they panhandle is used mostly for illegal purposes or liquor and it leads to more complications for them. If a person wants to give a helping hand there are plenty of ways to volunteer and make a real contribution.
There are actually websites and brochures for the homeless advising them in great detail how to get money and where they can everything they need for free… here’s an excerpt from one: “Where to Get Free Medical Care - If you become hurt or seriously ill, you can visit an emergency room anywhere in the United States. By law, they are not allowed to deny anybody and must run the necessary tests and checks to make sure you’re not seriously sick or injured. They can’t hold you there for not paying either. So if you can’t pay on the day you visit one, they will bill you at whatever address you give them. If you don’t pay, then they can sue you (if they can find you that is, and if you own any assets which they can sue for, which I’m sure you wouldn’t if you’re homeless) or it will go into collections and a debt collection agency will try to contact you and get you to pay up. For non-emergency problems, many cities and counties have programs available for low income individuals to get health care. For example, I live in San Jose, California, and I was sick but was only making about $500 a month. I looked up “low income health care” and “free health care clinics” on Google for my area, and after about 20 minutes of searching, I found a program that the city offers. I went down there and they gave me a ct scan on my abdomen and did blood work and checked my urine. They then established that I had an ulcer with gastritis and gave me a prescription for antibiotics.”
Chico is currently looking at building about 200 units for the low income and homeless.
The current homeless population in Butte County is estimated at about 2-3000 any given month and most of them congregate around Chico.
Coincidentally this was reported in the ER today, Homeless, poor in California can get free cellphones
SAN FRANCISCO — Impoverished Californians, including those who are homeless, soon will be able to get free cellphones and service thanks to the recent expansion of a statewide program.
Two wireless carriers are now offering free phones and monthly plans for 250 minutes and 250 text messages to all those who can prove that they make less than $14,702 a year, or are income eligible.
Before last week, the program only provided free landlines to the needy. But on Thursday, the California Public Utilities Commission approved two companies’ proposals to offer free mobile service funded in part through the Federal Communications Commission’s Lifeline program, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.