Chico City Council meeting, 02/02/21, Item 5.2
It’s easy to think of the “homeless population” as less deserving, as “transients,” who aren’t really from Chico, who are “lazy,” who are “criminals,” or who “choose” the “homeless lifestyle.” “They’re dirty and only make a mess of our parks.” This narrative makes it easier to justify the punishment and ridicule of all homeless individuals, but not really seeing them as individual human beings. There aren’t really “three kinds of homeless” as Erik Gustafson, Director of Public Works, tried to explain to me on the day he oversaw the eviction of the homeless campers living in lower Bidwell Park. I don’t believe that anyone would choose to live in a tent, in the mud, in the middle of a cold and wet winer without dire reasons. The truth is: a growing number of homeless people in our town are senior citizens in the age bracket of some of the City Councilors’ parents or grandparents. Many are elderly women.
It eases our conscience to think of the homeless as the “other,” outside of ourselves, when we bulldoze their belongings into a heap and then dump them into a dumpster. We don’t want the homeless to be visible. We just want them to go away and hide so we, and our children, don’t have to see them. It makes it easier to vanquish our uncomfortable thoughts.
I know that some of the current counselors, city staff and City Mgr. Mark Orme, are practicing Christians and I call upon you to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ who did not turn away from the poor and homeless. Do not make policy, or vote in such a way, as to merely fulfill a campaign promise to rid the town of “transients” who “don’t really live here.”
Instead, go by the universal Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” A specific example of the Golden Rule is expressed by Jesus in his own words, Matthew 25: “Truly I say unto you, to the extent that you do unto one of these brothers of mine, even to the least of them, you do unto me.”
Karen Laslo, Chico resident