Chico Narrowly Declares Shelter Crisis

Oct 3, 2018

Irma Arroyo-Long frustratingly pleads with the council, saying declaration of a shelter crisis is the only humane option.
Credit Marc Albert

Following another lengthy and acrimonious hearing, the city council in Chico declared a shelter crisis Tuesday night, opening the door to financial help from Sacramento aimed at easing homelessness.

It took close to two hours to wade through the claims and counter claims in an overflowing chamber, but in the end the council narrowly approved the declaration on a 4 to 3 vote with conservative Andrew Coolidge joining the liberal bloc.

After repeated hearings over recent months, resident Elizabeth Graham pleaded with the council to stop dithering.

“You all need to do something besides sitting here and go over it, and over it and over it,” Graham said.

The decision qualifies the city for a share of nearly $5 million expected to be disbursed to Butte County. The county, along with the municipalities of Oroville and Gridley declared shelter crises earlier.

Local resident Andrew Wilhelm however, after relaying an encounter with human excrement at a playground, doubted any money or programs would work.

“The city and the state have tried throwing money toward aid and comfort to homeless, and addicted mentally ill, and, we’re getting more of it. And, if you subsidize it, I think we’re just going to see more of it,” Wilhelm said.

It was an opinion shared by Mayor Sean Morgan.

“If throwing money at the problem would alleviate it, San Francisco would be the cleanest city in the world,” Morgan said.

Opponents were also concerned that any initiatives launched with the money would become a burden on local taxpayers once the state money runs out.

But it was viewpoints such as the one voiced by Irma Arroyo-Long that prevailed.

“Last time I checked, we don’t live in a third world country, yet we treat our homeless and poor in that way. I beg you to be and do what is right, what is humane. What is in all of us,” Arroyo-Long said.

The money can be spent on housing for the homeless or on services. The crisis designation allows officials to waive building codes in certain instances.

In other council action, a measure beginning the process of hiring three additional police officers and a sergeant to form a permanent street crimes unit was approved, as was a minor expansion of Enloe Medical Center and final approval of a new 600-acre subdivision despite lawsuit threats.