by Leslie Layton
posted Jan. 4
Jan. 6 update: Chico City Council held an emergency meeting today after Safe Space was forced to move intake from the downtown building. (Intake today will be held at 5:30 p.m. at 285 East 5th St.) A meeting will be held Tuesday between City and Safe Space managements, and Council members Sean Morgan and Addison Winslow.
Safe Space Executive Director Hilary Crosby was encouraged today by City officials who she said have agreed to meet to discuss the intake center problem that has threatened to shut down Chico’s emergency winter sheltering program.
In a Dec. 21 letter from Community Development Director Brandon Vieg, the City denies the request from Safe Space for a zoning verification that would allow it to continue operating intake at 101 Main St., the site of the former 7-Eleven store.
Crosby said today she expects a meeting to take place next week and expects that Safe Space may have to find another location. “I don’t anticipate them trying to shut us down in the meantime,” she said.
Safe Space, which houses 60 homeless individuals nightly at a collaborating church, believes it should be allowed temporary use of the downtown location under a City code designed for emergency public health purposes.
But Vieg, in the City’s denial letter, states: “An emergency is an urgent, sudden, and serious event or an unforeseen change in circumstances … While the City has declared a shelter crisis, this crisis has been in place for over 5 years and is ongoing.”
The issue began with a Dec. 19 Notice of Municipal Code Violation ordering Safe Space to immediately cease use of the building on grounds that the program lacked zoning clearance and there had been a citizen complaint.
Safe Space receives City funding for its seasonal sheltering program, and City leaders have been swamped with letters from residents protesting its action.
Crosby said program leadership believed it could run intake at the site, which makes it a meeting point for people waiting for the shuttle to a church. Intake would be ongoing nightly from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. until March 3. “We’re definitely saving people’s lives,” she said. “Without supportive services [unhoused] people would be super vulnerable out there.”
The winter sheltering program has a maximum capacity of 60 and has been turning away people nightly to avoid exceeding that number. About 60 percent of Safe Space clients have a self-reported disability, Crosby said.
Butte County Shelter for All has compiled a list of 27 unhoused people who died, usually on Chico streets, in 2023. That list includes Jason Merced, who had been recently interviewed for stories here and here and whose body was found Nov. 20 at Fifth and Main streets.
Safe Space needs more donated blankets, sleeping bags and tarps, and requests that those or other donated items be left at its office at 1907 Mangrove Ave., suite E.
Read ChicoSol’s story on how the unhoused develop survival strategies here, our report on the success of the pallet shelter program here, and our story on the violence targeting people living on the streets here.
Leslie Layton is editor of ChicoSol.