A while back we posted a question on our Life in Chico Facebook page, asking our fellow Chico Americans how they felt about the Sit/Lie ordinance enforced in Arcata. Come to find out, as other cities and towns pass these types of legislation, and members of the homeless population are sent packing, they don’t actually disappear into the ether, they actually have to go somewhere – and to quote one particular hobo, “Chico is an excellent place to winter.” In this year’s election, the homeless issues have played a pretty key role in determining City Council members. The fundamental issue with these ordinances is that they cast a big smelly blanket over the entire homeless population; and come to find out, not all homeless people are the same, and they’re not all homeless for the same reasons.
In Matt Olson’s feature this week, he helps us understand the nuances of the homeless community. Is it our responsibility as a community to care for these so-called Traveling Kids, who just steamroll into town like a fetid band of gypsy orphans? Is it our responsibility as a community to care for the homeless veteran that’s been on our streets and in our town for years? How about the mentally ill? Or the penniless colon-cancer survivor that has nothing and depends on the kindness of strangers to simply get by?
When we pass laws and ordinances that get rid of the few people that make us really uncomfortable, who are in our faces and aggressive, it essentially ruins it for the homeless that we’ve taken into the community fold and accepted and cared for with compassionate hearts for so long. What’s the answer? How can we take care of the homeless population that genuinely needs our help? How do we determine genuine need? Even some of the gypsy kids were failed at some point in their lives, whether by abuse, neglect, failed school systems or parents; they’re like the Lost Boys in Peter Pan.
This is a multi-faceted issue and if you’re interested in continuing this discussion, check out the Life in Chico Facebook page for more.