Do some unhoused people refuse shelter? It's complicated

Why do vacancies persist in the City’s menu of sheltering options? This is what ChicoSol learned as it reported on homelessness during the past two months:

–Some pallet shelters are kept open for referrals when the City is undertaking evictions from public spaces — which has been often this past year.

photo by Leslie Layton
Nathan Beakley

–Unhoused people say they sometimes wait for weeks or months for an assessment, or like Nathan Beakley, say they find it frustrating they can’t contact the Outreach & Engagement team to revisit the matter of a referral. An assessment and referral are the ticket into the pallet shelters.

–Some unhoused people avoid assessment when they see Chico Police Department Target Team officers around their camp, often in early morning. They may feel “they want to stay off any lists,” said Councilmember Addison Winslow, who worked with the unhoused community before joining the Council.

–Others have been assessed, may have stayed at a congregate shelter and refuse to return.
(Torres Shelter officials couldn’t be reached for comment.)

–Sometimes pallet shelters are left temporarily vacant by people who move out with complaints that range from inadequate site drainage to restrictions on storage.

The Jesus Center recently expanded its non-congregate shelter space by opening private units for each of 14 families that can stay up to six months and receive services that will help them get to the “next step in housing,” said Executive Director Amber Abney-Bass. It is fully occupied.

The Torres Shelter — with its many open beds — recently said it’s eliminating required drug-testing for entry and adding a gender-neutral space.

These kinds of changes help get more people sheltered, said Charles Withuhn of the North State Shelter Team. Still, it’s “fair to say many people want to be in the pallets,” he added. Leslie Layton