By Dave Waddell
While waiting for coffee recently, I became fixated on a mentally ill homeless man. He lay on his side in the shuttered entrance to what last was a Walgreens at East Avenue and the Esplanade. Every few seconds, the old, bearded, agitated man would flail his arms toward someone or something that was tormenting him but wasn’t really there. His situation – common across our country – struck me as just so sad and seemingly hopeless.
Yesterday, upon my return for coffee, I noticed that some sort of contraption covered by a blue tarp had taken the man’s place in the entrance. Attached to that tarp was a message, hand-lettered in pencil with more anger than planning: “Stay the Fuck out or else Little Bitches.”
When I look at that sign – and think about its message and its author – I see the face of an angry someone at a Trump rally.
But, really, the meanness of the message is not so different from that sent by the majority of the Chico City Council over the past couple of years: Roust the homeless out of sight; they’re bad for business.
Recently, a noted housing-first advocate from Utah spoke to a packed community meeting at Bidwell Presbyterian Church about solutions to the chronic problem of homelessness. The presentation was attended by council liberals Tami Ritter, Ann Schwab and Randall Stone — all of whom are seeking re-election today, as is conservative Vice Mayor Sean Morgan.
It was telling that none of the council’s four conservatives – Morgan, Mayor Mark Sorensen, Reanette Fillmer or Andrew Coolidge – cared enough to attend that homelessness meeting. Fillmer, who has publicly expressed insensitivity toward homeless in the past, later wrote a letter excusing herself for being MIA that the Chico Enterprise-Record dutifully published. The letter was nonsensical, just like everything else I’ve read written by Fillmer.
Today’s Election Day, and I just want to say that those we elect to our Chico City Council make a difference in how we as a community treat the least fortunate among us.
This commentary was penned by ChicoSol News Director Dave Waddell.