Homelessness, Poverty, Crime Issues Take Center Stage At Chico City Council Meeting

Jun 6, 2018

Near pandemonium at a Chico Council meeting as Lindsay Poulin (right, foreground) of Chico First confronts Ryan Schwab (left) for sharing offensive and dehumanizing comments about homeless people on Chico First's Facebook page. Poulin falsely claimed that Schwab made up the comments.
Credit Marc Albert

Despite plenty of sound and fury from the community, there was little decisive action made by Chico's city council Tuesday night on issues surrounding homelessness, poverty and crime.

After much drama and confrontation, the council delegated suggestions and ordered further study of a list of five proposals pushed as helping curb incivility and lawfulness, which were also derided as inhumane, anti-homeless and downright cruel.

Councilman Andrew Coolidge introduced the proposals at the behest of Chico First, a citizen’s group focused on clearing transient camps, reporting and bemoaning crime, vagrancy and drug use.

“I just got tired of waiting to have this discussion because it seemed like my community was going to explode over it, and by tonight, it’s obvious that we are,” Coolidge said.

In the end, action was hardly decisive.

Discussion of setting a uniform curfew for public parks will be taken up by the city’s parks commission. Possible surveillance camera locations will be drawn up by the city manager’s office. Merchants, police and city staffers will work on ways to curb shopping cart theft. The police department will further research the cost and effectiveness of a now lapsed prohibition against sitting or lying down on sidewalks. Lastly, the city attorney will learn exactly what a “shelter emergency” is and what it would do.

Housing activists have been begging officials to declare such an emergency for well over a year, saying the designation would allow the copying of a Marysville program providing very simple dwellings together with support services. Declaring a shelter emergency allows construction of dwellings that would otherwise violate building codes.

The anti-climactic conclusion followed weeks of agitation and political pressure. Despite more than a few heated moments, the long night eventually eased passions. Dan Everhart is a housing advocate.

“If we’d spend a little time talking to one another instead of calling each other names all the time, and get about making better decisions, maybe we’d figure out how to build enough affordable housing so homelessness wasn’t such an issue here,” Everhart said.

In other council action, members took no action on a proposed needle exchange program, saying it should be a county responsibility.