Homeless agencies fighting like dogs over scraps

21 Nov

The other day I got a mailer from the Jesus Center, their annual fundraising drive. 

The Jesus Center has a long history here in town. The first location that I know of was a building situated down the street from the current location. They offered very spare meals twice a day – sometimes just a slice of American cheese between two pieces of white bread, contained in a sandwich baggie. They also offered Salvation – at times they were accused of asking clients to pray for their meals. 

In the early days the center was privately run, by a local family. By the 1990’s the center had a staff, and a manager – Al Kay, who was very popular in town. He renamed the operation “Loaves and Fishes.”  Kay started to ask for community support, encouraging donations of food. We had a good year in our tomato patch and I took him a 5 gallon bucket of tomatoes, for which he thanked me up and down.

But some of the neighboring businesses often complained that the center was bringing in transients, who would wander that length of street, drunk, panhandling, ranting and raving away customers. 

 

We had a rental in the neighborhood, when we were working on it, we bought lunch a lot of times out of the window at Duke’s Liquor – they had really good  wagon-style tacos for about $1 each. I saw what the locals were complaining about – we’d always encounter at least three drunks while waiting for our food, including one woman who would walk up and try to start a fight. The others would just walk back and forth mumbling and smoking cigarettes, which they picked up from the ground.

Around the corner, there was a house full of working girls – yeah, daytime hookers – who would hang around the intersection of Park and 13th wearing the usual clothes, stand at the stoplight smoking cigarettes and engaging passersby, oftentimes running back to the apartment house to meet them in the parking lot.

That corridor has had a problem with transients as long as I  can remember.  Part of the problem was an old building known as the Ice House – at some point, ice was manufactured there. It had been empty since at least the 1960’s, and was a serious public nuisance. It wasn’t only an eyesore, it was a gathering and camping place for the transients, as well as a rat house. 

In the 1990’s, the city and the Jesus Center had an idea that seemed to kill two rats with one stone – let’s renovate the ice house and turn it into a functional shelter, set it up with the county, get some funding, etc.  The old building that had housed the JC had been burned down at some point in an arson fire – nobody was ever even blamed for it, they just moved  along toward relocation.

The ice house was gutted and revamped into a kitchen and dining hall with an office and even a couple of living spaces. And renamed The Jesus Center. 

I was happy about that – like a lot of people, I believed the transient problem was already there, and they needed some center to deal with it. 

I don’t remember when the Torres Shelter came on the scene, sometime around 2000? The city gave them the use of the land, and donors built the shelter, and several groups have tried to run it. 

Both centers started to hit the skids, in my recollection, sometime during the early 2000’s. My husband and I started to notice the JC was looking very run down, with tags on the outside of the building and trash piling up in front. At some point we noticed a broken down old motor home with a tarp pulled half-heartedly over the roof, parked in back of the building. On different occasions we saw different men staggering out of it.  Whenever we’d go to Chico Locker to buy meat or sandwiches, we’d see a surly, dirty group at the picnic table provided for customers, smoking cigarettes, making inappropriate comments. The staff kept them out of the store, but couldn’t keep them off the table.

The trash started to pile up all around that corner. One day not too long ago I sat in the parking lot and watched two really drunk people repeatedly walking out in front of cars that passed through the intersection of 14th and Locust.  They acted as though it was some sort of game.  If they do get hit, it’s an all expenses paid stay at Enloe Hospital.

We were glad when we heard Bill Such had been sent packing and a new, no-nonsense board had taken over the JC. But things did not get better under new director, Laura Cootsoona.  The JC started giving bums sleeping bags, back packs, and other camping supplies that we’d find in piles in Bidwell Park, under various bridges around town and along our creekside greenways. 

I believe locating the Torres nearby was a mistake, they seem to compete for funding. And I don’t think the Torres Shelter board is led by practicality, they are led by Pollyanna fantasies. They don’t hold high enough standards for their clients. They say they have rules – the rules end at the public sidewalk in front of the shelter. The Torres board won’t be responsible for the behavior of the people they attract. 

Neither entity will take responsibility for the rampant illegal camping going on in their area. Neither will patrol the park to get illegal campers to come to the shelter. They sit and collect their salaries and wait for the transients to come to them. 

And North Chico has no open door services – transients are expected to find their way South. The old hotel on Esplanade and the Esplanade House accept clients through the courts, and have long-term programs. The Esplanade House is having internal problems over the current director’s insistence that they accept single drunks – he wants the money, the original founders want to protect the families living there. 

So, right now, our homeless agencies are all fighting among themselves, and it looks like the Torres Shelter will be gone within a year. 

I don’t know if I’ve shed any light on this situation, I’ve had a hard time remembering the timeline. But I do know, the situation is worse now than ever, and all we have is bickering among these publicly-funded agencies. 

https://www.newsreview.com/chico/plan-lacks-transparency/content?oid=25360445

So when I got the annual fundraiser notice from the Jesus Center, I hucked it. I’m tired of supporting this bullshit. 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: