Let’s stop calling them “homeless” – let’s call them what they are – “transient criminals”

7 May

My husband found this abandoned (?) campsite in Middle Bidwell Park. This is a spot that was cleaned by the city’s alternative inmate program earlier this year.

Try as I might, I can’t discourage my husband from taking my old dog for a morning walk in Bidwell Park, about two blocks from our house. She needs the exercise, so does he.   I can’t stand the sight of Middle Bidwell Park anymore, I won’t go. Badges and I stay home and do yard work before the heat sets in.  

Friday, walking near the Fitness Trail, they found another pile of trash/campsite.  These are usually concealed from the heavier used trails by the dense overgrowth of non-native plants, shrubs, small trees, but it doesn’t take much investigation to find them – my husband usually stumbles in when he is trying to avoid other dogs. Biscuit isn’t one to back down, and if another dog gets aggressive, there’s going to be vet bills. So, my husband keeps his eyes open, and whenever he sees what looks like Trouble heading up the path he herds Biscuit onto some smaller side trail. These usually lead right into some hobo camp or another.

The city staff knows this, they really don’t try to find these camps. They don’t want to engage these people. They want to walk through life with their little knapsack full of our taxes on their back without upsetting anybody’s apple cart.  I’m getting tired of reporting this stuff, they always act like it’s the first thing they heard about it. “Geeshy Sakes Ma’am, well, cornsakes and sech, we’ll get out there in a humdinger!” 

I sent the pictures I took at Home Depot to Chico ER Hotshots, but they didn’t see fit to print them. I know, they have so many important pictures of the sun going down over the after bay. 

Recently the Downtown Starbucks applied for a “parklet” – “essentially… an upgraded, beautified curb space outside Starbucks with bicycle parking and seating for the public, not just customers…” (Chico ER)  Council had originally approved the idea, but Mayor Sean Morgan brought it back for reconsideration “because of concerns about how the area will be managed and maintained.”  At last week’s council meeting, Morgan and the others reneged on the parklet, Morgan opined it was “‘maybe not the best time’ because of what is happening with homelessness in the city and downtown.” (Chico ER)

I’ve heard Morgan and other councilors complain loudly about the “homeless” problem. Andrew Coolidge told a gathering of Chico Taxpayers that his family called Downtown Plaza “bum park”. 

First of all, let’s call it what it is – it’s not a “homeless” problem, it’s a “transient criminal” problem. Second, let’s talk about the rest of the city for a change, it’s not just about Downtown. Bidwell Park is a Hobo Jungle. “Quality of life”crimes are becoming prevalent all along the Bidwell Park corridor. The police have admitted we have a bicycle theft problem “fueled by heroin addiction.” We’ve had two transients die in public places, frequented by children. I’ve seen discarded syringe caps at Cedar Grove many times, that seems to be a really popular place to shoot. Why isn’t the city addressing this problem? 

Because, according to Eric Gustafson, city of Chico Public Works chief, these people have Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights.

How do you feel about that? You know if you left your car in a parking place Downtown without paying the meter you’d get a ticket, eventually it would be towed.  

Why do these people have more rights than us? Because there are too many public agencies that make money off these people. 

I’m sending this picture to Sean Morgan and the rest of council, city mangler Mark Orme, and my county supervisors. I’m going to ask them who is responsible for cleaning this up. 

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6 Responses to “Let’s stop calling them “homeless” – let’s call them what they are – “transient criminals””

  1. Don May 8, 2017 at 5:21 am #

    Hello Juanita:

    Thank you for your work and research. I am a Chico native and spent my youth in Bidwell Park. It was a safe place. Today, that is not the case. I used to run early in the morning from one mile to five mile. It is not safe anymore.

    The park “rules” prohibit overnight camping, stating the park is “for day use only.” Looking at the deed restrictions for the park, the following five items are outlined:

    1. Liquor clause.

    2. That the property be used as a public park for the benefit of the “citizens and residents of the City of Chico”.

    3. Must use the park in such manner as to preserve, as far as reasonably possible, the beauty of the park, the shrubbery, vines, trees, etc., and the waters of the creek.

    3.Not to permit any hunting, except where necessary to protect birds.

    4.Not allow public picnics on Sunday, that is to say, orders, lodges, organizations or associations or advertised public picnic (private picnics excluded).

    These were followed by the reservation clause providing for forfeiture in the event of violation. While the Bidwell descendants cannot reclaim the park and its land, the city is bound by the deed. Legally the City holds title to Bidwell Park for the benefit of “all of the people of the City of Chico”. Thus the City could restrict the use of the park to city residents.

    All city residents have a right to use the park, subject to the rules and regulations established by the Bidwell Park and Playground Commission adopted pursuant to the City Charter, and not in conflict with the general purposes of the Bidwell Grant.

    I think the problem with enforcement is reflected in your parking example. If you leave your car parked at a meter without paying, the car will eventually be towed and auctioned if not redeemed. This works because you have an asset that can be converted. If you do not have any assets you will be left alone. To me, this is a form of selective enforcement that has primary affect on those with something to lose.

    Look at city plaza. The taxpayers of Chico invested several million dollars to create this area, for the people of Chico. The city calls it “the crown jewel” it is today. However, this area has been taken over and vandalized on a regular basis, i.e., the bathroom problem. It is another area we have essentially lost use of. But again, people with no assets. If you or I vandalized the bathrooms, we would be forced to pay for them and our acts would be a public spectacle of shame. Maybe the city manager and a few high level staffers should have their desks moved to the city plaza. If that happened the situation would quickly change.

    Like most things, if this problem is neglected, it will go from bad to worse. The 4th amendment applies to everyone. I cannot assert my 4th amendment rights by violating yours. Everyone needs to make an effort to combat this problem and to put pressure on those we employ to enforce our laws.

    • Juanita Sumner May 8, 2017 at 10:02 am #

      Thanks for commenting Don, you raise very good points.

      Looking at the deed restrictions for the park – it is troubling the way the city increasingly ignores the deed restrictions, they act as though it means nothing. The deed needs to be honored and the restrictions need to be enforced on everybody who uses the park, including the restriction on large public groups on Sunday. The city uses the park as a revenue source, anybody who will pay can have a gathering whatever day they want.

      If you do not have any assets you will be left alone. To me, this is a form of selective enforcement that has primary affect on those with something to lose. I agree – Butte County DA Mike Ramsey will not prosecute transients whose thefts are worth less than $1,000, but if a property owner were to be late in paying taxes or failed to register their car on time, that property owner is subject to hefty fines.

      Maybe the city manager and a few high level staffers should have their desks moved to the city plaza. If that happened the situation would quickly change. Don, I wish you would make that suggestion in a letter to the Enterprise Record.

      Everyone needs to make an effort to combat this problem and to put pressure on those we employ to enforce our laws Yes, I agree. I think if more people like you would write letters to the editor, council and staff, I think we would see some changes in city policy. I wrote to Mayor Sean Morgan recently and he responded with some interesting observations, I’ll post that as soon as I can get back to the keyboard.

  2. Sandy Nevenzel May 8, 2017 at 2:20 pm #

    What is it you propose we do to “clean up” homelessness? These people already have no homes. Do you suggest that we remove their homelessness from them too? And how so?
    Just as Trump was grossly mistaken by characterizing Mexicans as criminals, so are you in calling all homeless people criminals. They are not all drug addicts and criminals. Unfortunately this society contains many people who are down on their luck for various reasons: job loss, divorce, foreclosure, bankruptcy, illness and medical bills, housing shortages, low income, mental illness. There are many, many homeless CHILDREN also!!. DO SOMETHING TO HELP INSTEAD OF JUST COMPLAINING AND JUDGING. Donate time or money to homeless shelters, give someone a job, or invite someone into your home.

    • Juanita Sumner May 8, 2017 at 3:23 pm #

      I have not proposed “cleaning up the homeless”, I proposed cleaning up the park. The people who camp illegally in the park are criminals, they are not seeking the services we provide them through our tax dollars.

      I never said all “homeless” are criminals. Read the post again.

      I pay taxes to own a home. These taxes are split 45-55 between the city of Chico and the county of Butte. County administrative officer Paul Hahn told an assemblage of elected officials and public staff that over half the county budget goes to the “indigent and mentally ill.” That means over a quarter of my taxes. Not to my kids’ schools, not to the roads I need to get to work, not to my healthcare, but to the “indigent and mentally ill”. Then there’s the city’s contribution, which has not been made clear, but the Torres Shelter sits on city land for which the taxpayers are not recompensed.

      You need to donate some time to the think bank.

    • Rob May 9, 2017 at 7:53 am #

      Sandy, you are practicing sheep behavior and expecting us to be sheep and follow. We have all been through the mill – all the bad things you mention have happened to people who still maintain their dignity and their responsible lifestyle without falling down in their own filth and expecting the rest of us to carry them on our backs.

      Get off my back.

      • Juanita Sumner May 9, 2017 at 7:55 am #

        thanks, I think this person, who has used a fake name and insulting fake e-mail, is just a shill from one or another of the service providers that make their living bringing people in here. I believe this comment is motivated more by self-service than any wish to promote the welfare of fellow humans, including us.

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