by Leslie Layton
posted Nov. 30, 2021
A Chico nonprofit shut down an emergency hotel-based shelter program today, and this reporter was told to leave the property at Town House Motel where residents had been staying.
The program, funded by the CARES Act, placed unhoused people at high risk for COVID or COVID-related complications in motels and hotels. The shelter program was expected to stay in place until the end of January 2022, but was ended Nov. 30 after participants were given two weeks notice.
About half of the people using the program, described as a “Project Roomkey” extension but funded in another way, had nowhere to go, ChicoSol has learned. A total of 40 people had been staying there through the shelter program.
True North Housing Alliance, which ran the program and also runs the Torres Community Shelter, could not be reached for comment despite multiple attempts by ChicoSol to reach Executive Director Joy Amaro. A True North staffer who identified herself as “Ashley” demanded ChicoSol’s departure off the motel property this morning.
Ashley, flanked by a security guard, moved swiftly to greet this reporter and said she had to protect the confidentiality of her clients. The motel grounds were a “closed site,” she added. Few people were in sight from the parking lot where we spoke, with the exception of a woman in a wheelchair with a small dog who gave a friendly wave. A U-Haul truck was parked next to a motel room door.
Many of the people who were housed at the motel through the program — modeled after the state’s Project Roomkey — are disabled or dealing with a compromising health condition.
Hilary Crosby, executive director of Caring Choices, said her nonprofit had provided some case management during the past 10 days. Crosby said some of the people at the motel are moving to one of the two congregate shelters in Chico, the Torres Shelter and Jesus Center, where residents may share bathrooms or live in close quarters to others.
Crosby said some people would be discharged to the streets.
“Some of them have agoraphobia and can’t be around that many people,” Crosby said. “Some are staying in their cars” and some don’t want to be in a shelter. A couple of the motel residents were refused admission or perhaps re-admission to the shelters.
Some people enrolled in the program had been housed in a local hotel or motel for months.
Local activists who work on issues related to homelessness were on social media Nov. 29 asking for tents and tarps for the people being discharged. North State Shelter Team’s Charles Withuhn said it’s less expensive — and more ethical — to house people in motels than it is to turn them out to the streets.
The decision to end the program was “unconscionable” and doesn’t make sense in terms of “economics, logic and ethics,” Withuhn said. The fact that some people can’t tolerate a congregate shelter points to the need for a campground in the area, he added.
Crosby said her organization will continue to work on housing plans and provide services to its unhoused clients regardless of whether they are on the streets in order to “not let them slip through the cracks.”
Leslie Layton is editor of ChicoSol.
This story was corrected on Dec. 2 to eliminate incorrect use of the name “Project Roomkey.” This shelter program was considered a Project Roomkey “extension” but funded with CARES Act dollars.
The security guards at the site worked for Armed Guard Private Security but were unarmed.