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Chico's unhoused hit hard by winter storm

Angel Huracha
Chico’s Comanche Creek

Heavy rain fell in the north state over the weekend — so much that Lake Oroville saw its levels rise 20 feet over the past week.

However, unhoused residents sought refuge in emergency shelters and personal vehicles, with no other choice but to protect the little they had.

Many unhoused residents camped near Chico’s Comanche Creek saw their tents flooded and belongings soaked. Chad Barker was one of them. He said he left to sleep in his car in Oroville, but the storm destroyed his tents.

"We had three tents, there was one right here. I just threw it away. I had a bunch of stuff in here," Barker said. "Everything we own was in there except for my clothes. And I was supposed to come, you know, like, see what was left or whatever. There ain't nothing left."

Some local organizations offered aid. The emergency shelter Safe Space partnered with Chico First Baptist Church to provide a place for displaced residents to dry off.

Angel Huracha
Heavy rain and winds caused damage and flooding in Comanche Creek.

In an email, Safe Space Shelter Operations Manager Rick Narad said they accommodated 35 residents in need of shelter.

However, some camping at Comanche, like Jane Guzman, didn't want to leave their camp.

“Safe Space came and asked if we wanted to go but I'm like, ‘nah I don't want to go, because I got my stuff here.’ So I just stayed," Guzman said.

Guzman added that a local church gave out black trash bags to protect personal belongings from the rain.

The City of Chico released a statement Sunday saying they were "actively responding to all storm-related issues throughout our community."

When NSPR asked if any aid programs were being offered to unhoused residents in need, the city said they could not comment on the matter due to "ongoing settlement discussions surrounding the issue of homelessness."

Rick Narad, Safe Space operations manager, said that donations for unhoused residents are always welcome. Dry socks, ponchos, tents and sleeping bags are all requested. Those dropping off donations are asked to call Safe Space ahead of time to let them know at (406) 782-9807.

Alec Stutson grew up in Colorado and graduated from the University of Missouri with degrees in Radio Journalism, 20th/21st Century Literature, and a minor in Film Studies. He is a huge podcast junkie, as well as a movie nerd and musician.
Angel Huracha has been a part of the journalism field since 2006 and has covered a range of topics. He is a graduate of Chico State with a Bachelor's degree in news-editorial and public relations with a minor in English.