Chico faces federal litigation, provides sanctioned tenting – Chico Enterprise Report
CHICO – Facing the homelessness crisis of the past decade, Chico staff and city council offer a solution to a federal judge in hopes of avoiding an injunction for a possible violation of the U.S. Constitution.
The case of Warren v. Chico served as a focal point when Chico’s systematic clearance began in January when no accommodations were open to stay during COVID-19. In April, Justice Morrison of England, Chico District Court, reprimanded City Attorney Vince Ewing for writing “sweeping, twisted” ordinances that he believed violated Martin V’s constitutional basis. Boise disapproved – although he also criticized the plaintiffs’ legal counsel.
As the city presents an option for sanctioned camping to the judge, Butte County’s Housing and Homeless Administrator Don Taylor said on June 17 that the housing crisis in the area is a complex problem for service providers.
The government’s Roomkey Project and Rapid Relocation were the primary way Butte County’s responded to the pandemic crisis. Taylor said more than 500 local FEMA hotels have passed through but it won’t be easy to accommodate them.
“Housing unit (availability) is the single biggest problem we are facing right now,” he said. “The fact is that we lost so much living space during the campfire. And before that we had a housing crisis. especially affordable housing. (Affordable Housing) Projects that move forward will help the community if they are available, but it is not an available answer. “
“People have been homeless for a long time,” he added.
“The longer you are homeless, the more difficult it is to get to a place. There are many more people with medical complications, mental complications, substance abuse, or a combination of these. “
Since mid-2020, this newspaper has been reporting the increase in recorded crime in areas with concentrated camps, particularly the Comanche Creek Greenway. Opposition to lawyers has linked these crimes to calls for more enforcement to prevent uninhabited people from being in public spaces or near homes and schools.
Shortly after the election, the Chico Chamber of Commerce also made it clear that in terms of appearance, homelessness is one of the top issues in the city’s economic development. President Katy Thoma told the newspaper in February that the recent deaths and behavior of some uninhabited people in the city center are not good for city business or customer attraction.
Local Facebook groups have been at the forefront of this effort, sending letters and emails to councilors asking for action to be taken against unoccupied people in public spaces. The initiative had a huge impact on the 2020 elections, as candidates working to fight homelessness – Andrew Coolidge, Deepika Tandon and Kami Denlay, and incumbent Sean Morgan – won their districts, with support and fundraising from PAC citizens for a Sure Chico.
When these promises were redeemed with systematic warehouse evictions, frustrations arose when the judge issued an injunction and suspended enforcement for more than two months.
Answer of the city
Before the second federal court hearing in June, Mayor Coolidge focused on the national homelessness problem, blaming “years and years of failed housing policies”.
He blamed the restriction on development, as happened on Bruce Road. And he added that the Camp Fire contributed to an increase in the number of people buying homes in Chico, which drove prices up astronomically as rents also filled up “overnight”.
Coolidge also said he wanted the city back to “a place where our parks and waterways are clean and safe”. He said the restraining order had hampered enforcement efforts, which he believed was “a really good program to clean up the city’s parks and waterways” and wanted to see a solution “where we can put these problems behind us”.
“Everyone has an opinion. The only opinion that matters in this whole thing is this judge. “
Other councilors took different approaches. Vice Mayor Kasey Reynolds supported a local organization Point of Contact Chico and helped the group to achieve the status of a not-for-profit organization in January 2020 under the name Verum Community Solutions Inc., according to documents of the foreign minister, which are available to the enterprise record. Reynolds did not respond to requests for comment.
On February 5, Morgan said in an interview with KPAY, “The police (Chico) will keep moving you and they will keep moving you.
“Will it hurt a little when all of this happens? Yes, and you see it and we stay tuned. “
Chico Police Chief Matt Madden declined to comment on this for this article. The department’s official stance towards the court in April was that Martin v. Boise and the conditions of accommodation have been followed.
Morgan also said in June that he believes the Camp Fire’s association with homelessness is bogus rhetoric “being played down by service providers and newspapers for being practical and untrue.
“On the discourse side, we are being forced by a federal judge to do more than ever before,” he said.
Councilor Alex Brown said the past two years have been frustrating because she called “an air of denial or rejection of the idea that our city is responsible for using evidence-based solutions to address the homelessness problem in our communities.”
“Historically, the city has reacted with the hard hand … and for me that means criminal policy, police intervention and very little attention to the causes and evidence-based solutions,” she said.
“It’s a shame that legal action must be taken to affect a legitimate change or solution. You have seen how the will of the council and the staff has changed quite dramatically in the face of legal action and new ideas emerge that were not previously taken into account. “
Several groups have been active for years to support the homeless and to urge the Council to reconsider regulations criminalizing their existence.
Movements to stand with people who were moved became more aggressive. Chico Friends on the Street continued to offer meals and coffee breakfast three times a week on Sundays, while the North State Shelter team was made up of activists who wanted to help uninhabited people stay in their places.
The Chico Housing Action Team has received assistance from the Chico City Council to raise American Rescue funding to put together a family housing program.
Former Interim Executive Director Leslie Johnson said on June 18, “We’ve never really slowed down with COVID-19 because the need hasn’t let up.”
“People have so many stereotypes about homelessness and who the homeless are,” she said.
“People tend to think that drugs or mental illness make them homeless. Well, it certainly doesn’t help, but usually there are other factors that cause people to become homeless and create barriers that prevent them from getting into an apartment. “
“The biggest myth is that homelessness is a choice,” added Taylor.
“For the vast majority of people, there are several reasons and challenges that keep people from getting into an apartment.
“Even with the unprecedented number of affordable and even marketable units currently being built … that will still not be enough.”
“I really don’t think we’re catching up or overtaking,” agreed Johnson.
From Tuesday, Chico will open a temporary campsite for 571 people on Friday near the city airport. No service provider has been appointed to administer the site. The city will take this proposal to the federal court on July 2nd.