Housing and homeless advocates had something to celebrate in Butte County Tuesday. The Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a shelter crisis throughout the county.
The designation makes the county eligible for nearly $5 million in state financial aid for homeless services.
It also cuts a lot of red tape, allowing officials to begin housing homeless people on county-owned property within unincorporated areas. However, how many and how soon remains unclear.
The board would still have to approve individual locations. While the declaration overrides certain aspects of the state building code, allowing people to occupy dwellings otherwise considered substandard, structures would still have to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), limiting options. County officials told the board they were not aware of any county property that is currently unused, located in an unincorporated area and meets ADA requirements.
Housing advocate Charles Withuhn said homelessness deserves to be front and center.
“This is an issue that has come on us slowly,” he said. “If by any other reason, 400 people became homeless by earthquake, flood, fire; we’d have tents up tomorrow. This issue has come on us slowly, and because it’s poverty we’re slow to get up to speed.”
Withuhn has been pushing for the creation of a supervised development of small, simple shelters, akin to efforts in Marysville, Eugene and elsewhere.
Municipalities within the county – such as Chico, Gridley and Paradise – could decide to opt in like Oroville which already has, or they could take no action.