Homeless evictions continue in southeast Chico Chico police block media from watching; upset citizens decry policy

by Leslie Layton

Chico Police Department today blocked the media from Boucher Street as officers informed homeless people camping there and at Forest and Humboldt streets that they had to move.

photo by Karen Laslo
An officer tells a homeless woman at Humboldt and Forest to be out by evening on Feb. 16 as she stares into a small mirror.

Unhoused people at both sites had been given 72-hour eviction notices that had expired. And as the rain ceased and the sun broke through today, police moved in on the encampments.

At Boucher and Wisconsin streets, community members offered to help campers load tents and possessions into trucks and move them if they had someplace to go. A few people chose to move to beneath the Highway 99 overpass in lower Bidwell Park. But with no shelter space available in the city, many didn’t know what to do.

Although some of the community volunteers were allowed entry to the encampment, police blocked a section of Boucher from the press. Officer Andrew Cooper said it was a “work zone” and because heavy equipment was moving around, they couldn’t let reporters pass.

photo by Natalie Hanson courtesy of the Chico Enterprise-Record
ER reporter Natalie Hanson gained entry to the encampment at Boucher and Wisconsin by accompanying volunteer helpers.

At Forest and Humboldt streets, meanwhile, officers told campers to be out by evening. The homeless residents there said they had been given 72-hour notice late last week, but were unsure where to go.

A new more conservative City Council has moved swiftly to take action that appears to be aimed at driving unhoused people from the area. In a Feb. 5 interview with KPAY radio, Councilmember Sean Morgan said the policy would force people to leave. “The police department is gonna’ keep moving them, and they’re gonna’ keep moving them,” Morgan said. “The stragglers who just came to Chico, which is the great majority of them, because it was convenient and it was easy … They are going to go somewhere else.”

photo by Karen Laslo
Councilor Sean Morgan

Under the Highway 99 overpass, though, one homeless camper told ChicoSol he was born in Oroville and raised in Chico. “I’ve been in Chico 25 years, Donavan Arbayo said. “I did have an apartment in Oroville in 2018, but because of the cost of living we had to walk away from it.”

His wife, Tia Metcalf, emerged from their tent barefoot and, when offered disposable face masks, asked for help getting socks.

photo by Leslie Layton
Tia Metcalf and Donavan Arbayo.

This was at least the third major sweep conducted by the city. The sweeps have left many community members ashamed of their city and struggling with the morality of the policy.

“It’s almost unnecessary cruelty,” said Laurel Yorks, a former housing advocate and Chico resident. “It’s a dangerous, dangerous plan and people are going to die. That doesn’t seem to be enough of a reason not to chase people out of town and treat them as if they’re human garbage. It’s so upsetting.”

Councilmember Scott Huber, who has opposed the panel’s enforcement policy, and activist Charles Withuhn discuss the tragedy of homelessness:

5 thoughts on “Homeless evictions continue in southeast Chico Chico police block media from watching; upset citizens decry policy

  1. Roughly how many people live in the encampments
    and has there been any effort to survey who they are and
    why they became homeless (refugees from the wildfires?)

    1. I can tell you that there are more people camping in the ‘encampments’, we just know them as the closest thing to home that we have. Most of us on waiting lists for help. Being pushed to the next spot and then the next. Looked down on because most of us are jobless as well as homeless. Yet having to deal with getting fired because of being homeless. Not able to get into a place. They ask to much. Feeling dirty and unworthy. Want to change our lives, yet kicked back down to being reduced to sleeping in the dirt, no shower, no bathroom, no water. Kinda takes the drive one should have just go away. There are good and bad in every social dynamic. The homeless community is no exception. We are sorry for those that give us a bad name. And for the consequences of us being human. The majority of us are a family. At least as close as we got to it. You want to help? Hire us! Donate private strips of land we can go to. Allow us to live so its not so rough trying to survive.

  2. Thank you for covering this ongoing and avoidable tragedy. Research has shown that sanctioned campgrounds and tiny home villages are cheaper (and more humane) than our current “regular rousting” strategy.

    1. There is a facility for rent in Corning. By Woodson Bridge for rent. Its 22 bedrooms, 3 kitchens, a staff room, an office….. it’s 9500 a month.

  3. Please put me on the list of people in this article who are ashamed of the Chico City council majority so blind they can’t fathom the depth of their cruel choice for the homeless people of Chico.

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