November 2020 — Monthly Update: Giving Thanks

“It is important to realize how often we have had chances to be grateful and have not used them. When someone is kind to us, when an event turns out well, when a problem is solved, a relationship restored, a wound healed, there are very concrete reasons to offer thanks: be it with words, with flowers, with a letter, a card, a phone call, or just a gesture of affection. . . . Every time we decide to be grateful it will be easier to see new things to be grateful for. Gratitude begets gratitude, just as love begets love.”

—Henri Nouwen

Every November, we write a letter that is designed to encourage us all to be thankful. This November is no different. But I know that after 7 months of a pandemic, in the aftermath of multiple fires, bad air, and confinement, and on the edge of more economic bad news, it is hard to be grateful. But just like with each individual fighting for new life, there are signs of success, progress, and hope. We need to look for them, dwell on them, and celebrate them.

“We do not have to become heroes overnight. Just a step at a time, meeting each thing that comes up, seeing it is not as dreadful as it appeared, discovering we have the strength to stare it down.”

—Eleanor Roosevelt

We can look at the problem of homelessness with a gloom and doom attitude, or we can look at the problem as one that our community can work together to mitigate and solve.

I’m afraid we’ve missed the wins in the midst of signs of apparent failure. Can I invite you to see through different lens? Can I invite you to use your creative, inquisitive, caring eyes?

I know you are wondering what set of rose-colored glasses I’ve picked up at the Dollar Store. I’m guessing you are skeptical that there are any signs of progress. And I imagine that during a Fall full of political spin, you might be wondering what spin I’ve got to a tale that doesn’t look rosy, successful, or in any way hopeful. I hear you.

First of all, can I ask you to put down social media as your primary lens? Can I invite you to put aside single-issue politicians with gloom and doom slogans?

In their place, can I encourage you to see the many people and groups who are working to change our community’s response and relationship to the homeless?

What I see!

There are three important strategies among others that I want to highlight that are moving forward right now to develop more effective services for those in need while also improving our parks and public spaces so that ALL of our local citizens can experience the best parts of living in the Chico area. These are reasons to give thanks!

  1. Project RoomKey is a great collaborative effort funded through the state during these months of COVID to house the most vulnerable/at risk folks experiencing homelessness by giving them hotel rooms, 3 meals a day and case management. Under the County’s leadership, True North Housing, Safe Space, CHAT, and the Jesus Center have been addressing the needs of some of the folks that struggle the most. Over 250 people have gone through this program and more than 81 have received assistance with their housing. Evidently, these outcomes are some of the best in the state! Stabilizing these folks reminds them of the critical roles of sleep, three squares, showers, and moves them out of merely surviving to building a new life, a much better life. Over the summer the Jesus Center has provided nearly 40,000 meals through this program!
  2. Increased Low Barrier shelter beds. This is a good thing for our community. An increase of 150-400 shelter beds with minimal barriers to entry is the easiest path from camping on the street to stabilization. Low Barrier does not mean no rules, it simply focuses on diminishing commonly occurring barriers such as sobriety or staying with your partner that often get in the way for folks to come in. These beds will likely be a collaboration of the City of Chico, Safe Space Winter Shelter, True North Housing, County of Butte, and the Jesus Center as food providers. The goal is to be open by the end of 2020. This also gives the police a place to encourage campers to go instead of the park. Without these vacant beds, they do not have the authority to move folks out of their campsites.
  3. The Jesus Center move and the building of the Renewal Center. In the next 6 months, the Jesus Center will move to 2255 Fair Street and increase our shelter bed count from 23 to 65, to also shelter men and operate a 24/7 model! With all of the effort to expand low barrier beds in the city, our focus on sober sheltering and programs to help folks work on mental health, addiction management and trauma recovery will be the key for those struggling the most. Our Renewal Center campus will focus on families, and other hard to shelter clientele. Further, a full-fledged medical facility will be built on the site including detox and mental health treatment programs for both adults and adolescents, as well as medical facilities for the sick.

So, let me be the first to tell you, these efforts do not represent a status quo approach. This is a multi-partner collaboration to help people get off of the streets and lead their best life. It addresses circumstantial aspects of poverty like loss of a job, a spouse, or physical abuse as well as the underlying deep issues of mental illness, addiction, and childhood trauma.

Additionally, Jamboree Housing Corporation is buying our 1297 Park Ave. property and building and operating 59 units of affordable housing. This is amazing! In fact, our county has been approved for $42 million of tax credits for building affordable housing. This is unheard of! Especially in a rural region like we live in!

Give Thanks!

I’m grateful for those who are working hard to bring these projects (and others!) about! I’m thankful for the strength and capacity that has grown. I’m thankful for true bi-partisan support for more shelter beds and more affordable housing. I’m thankful for my team that has worked tirelessly to bring about the changes at the Jesus Center and the building of the Renewal Center.

“Rejoice Always. Again, I say Rejoice!”
—Philippians 4:4

Jesus Center Update Letter - November 2020

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Issues around homelessness are our community’s issues. Therefore, the solutions and paths forward are also all of ours to work on. I’ll lend you my lens and invite you to look and see the great work being done. The next step. Join us! Join us as funders, cheerleaders, advocates, and believers. Join us in giving thanks!

A gift to the Jesus Center for Thanksgiving is a gift of gratitude for our leadership and it is a gift of partnership.

I am overflowing with gratitude for your role to make our community a better place for ALL of its citizens!

In Gratitude,

Laura Cootsona
Executive Director

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