A sad story as reported by the New York Times, and I’ll be putting a little extra in the Red Kettle this season
CHICO, Calif. — Even before the first flames of the Camp Fire were set ablaze, there already was a state of emergency in the wooded hills and farmlands north of Sacramento.
The homeless situation in parts of Butte County was so bad that the county formally declared a crisis in October in order to secure millions of dollars in state aid.
And then came the fire, destroying nearly 14,000 residences and adding an entirely new population of tens of thousands of people to California’s long-entrenched homeless crisis.
“It was already a pretty dire situation,” said Laura Cootsona, the executive director of the Jesus Center in Chico, one of a handful of primary homeless shelters in the county.
In the post-fire reality, after 52,000 people were evacuated, the number looking for some place to live has grown exponentially almost overnight.
“If they end up in the county and need homes,” Ms. Cootsona added, “that’s just the largest disaster you can imagine.”
Now, almost a month after the fire erupted, with the weather worsening and evacuation shelters closing or relocating farther away, tensions are growing between those who were already homeless and the newly homeless, as each group reaches for the other’s resources.
Local providers of shelter and aid are bracing for an influx of new people in need, putting even more pressure on the shelter system and forcing difficult decisions about who should get priority for limited space.
California has one of the largest homeless populations of any state in the country — about 134,000 people, according to a 2017 Department of Housing and Urban Development report — and that population is growing faster than in other states. More than one-quarter of the nation’s total homeless population is in California.
Butte County alone already had about 2,000 homeless before the Camp Fire, with less than half of them making use of the county’s emergency shelters and transitional housing, according to a report by the Butte Countywide Homeless Continuum of Care. Many more choose instead to live on the streets or in tents.
Advocates say that in most cases, the goal of the shelters is to get people into temporary housing, support them on a path to self-sufficiency, and eventually get them settled in a permanent home. Along the way, there are fundamental issues to address, like mental illness, addiction and lack of income. But one of the biggest barriers to ending homelessness in Butte County is a dire shortage of available, affordable rental housing.
Retrieved December 3, 2018 from https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/03/us/california-fire-homeless.html?action=click&module=Top%20Stories&pgtype=Homepage