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City of Chico prepares to clear Comanche Creek homeless encampment, some don’t know where they’ll go

Comanche Creek .jpeg
Sarah Bohannon
Encampment at Comanche Creek Greenway in April 2021.

Unhoused people camping at Comanche Creek Greenway were given notice last week that the city of Chico will soon begin clearing the area.

People who are camping at Comanche Creek will need to go to a designated legal shelter option, such as the Torres Community Shelter or the Pallet shelter site, according to interim City Manager Paul Hahn. If they don’t, Hahn said they’ll face enforcement. Those deemed ineligible for admission to a shelter can camp at a designated site on the northwest corner of Eaton and Cohasset roads. Hahn said the city will open a second site if needed.

Hahn said the city doesn't have an exact date scheduled to begin enforcement at Comanche Creek. He said the city is still in the process of giving campers 7-day notices to leave the area, which it started issuing last week.

Christopher Hicks — who’s been camping at Comanche Creek — said he’d been looking forward to being able to stay at the Pallet shelter, which offers a private sleeping cabin and opened at the end of April.

“I've been waiting for these houses for a minute now, checking up on when they're going to be done,” Hicks said.

But when he went to sign up, Hicks said he was told he wasn’t eligible because caseworkers didn’t believe he was homeless after he’d told them he’d slept on a friend’s couch the night before. He said he repeatedly called the outreach hotline and asked to be reconsidered.

“They denied me because they didn't want to admit that they misunderstood what I said,” Hicks said.

Hahn said he wasn’t familiar with Hicks’ particular case, but he did speak to the general concern.

“If somebody has been living out at Comanche for months and for one night they slept on a couch that would not immediately, under my understanding, disqualify them. That doesn't sound right to me,” Hahn said.

Hahn explained that a person does have to be considered homeless to be eligible to stay at the shelter. Living in an RV, for example, could make someone ineligible, and Hahn said a couple of people in RVs did decide to give them up to be admitted to the Pallet shelter. He added that there is also limited availability at the shelters.

“People may have a preference for one or the other, but we necessarily can't accommodate every single preference,” Hahn said.

In the meantime, caseworkers are continuing to assess those camped at Comanche Creek to determine the best available shelter option ahead of any upcoming enforcement.

Adia White is a broadcast journalist and producer with nearly 10 years of experience. Her work has appeared on WNYC, This American Life, Capital Public Radio and other local and national programs. She started at North State Public Radio as a freelance reporter in 2017 before leaving for a stint at Northern California Public Media in Santa Rosa.
Ken came to NSPR through the back door as a volunteer, doing all the things that volunteers do. Almost nothing – nothing -- in his previous work experience suggests that he would ever be on public radio.