Why is the Jesus Center moving?
The challenges facing the Jesus Center are simple: built nearly 120 years ago, our building was not designed for its current use, after nearly 30 years our neighborhood is stressed, and this broad national problem of folks with extremely complex issues is growing. The problem in the community amounts to a sharp increase in both state and local numbers of those without a home, a complex population that requires many interventions, quality providers who play nicely side by side but are not systematically integrated, and missing tools for us all. The opportunity to move is one to build on and build around so that we can address needs of the homeless more comprehensively as a community moving folks out of their suffering and into stable housing and life.
Is the Jesus Center being made to do this, being forced out, coerced by the City or is this something you want to do?
We are ecstatic about this possible move and expansion. Mark Orme, Chico City Manager, approached us in July of 2017 and asked, “Would you be willing to move?” What he didn’t know is that we had been looking to relocate at least our drop-in services for over 18 months (meals, showers, free store, resource center). We were more than thrilled that the city would consider helping us not only relocate but give us the opportunity to expand our community’s resources for the homeless. He had no idea we had a bigger plan in mind to bring together our community’s resources to better serve those struggling with homelessness.
What is true is that we have unprecedented levels of support from the city, allowing us to get land that we could not otherwise have access to. This is not because of collusion or control, but rather because:
- They have confidence in our leadership in this area
- They see that we are invested in improving the city
- They know we touch a lot of the homeless population
- They know they can’t solve the challenges presented by the homeless population without assistance from providers like us
- They believe in our ability to engage other service providers in our community in this project, which means we are able to form a collaborative response to this community need and move away from a silo approach
How will this improve the situation and not just move the problem elsewhere, adversely impacting the businesses in that area?
Wherever we end up being located, there are neighborhood issues. We have clearly outgrown our current location. Serving over 200 individuals daily puts a strain on the neighborhood particularly because we have limited space for folks to hang out during the day. We are imbedded in a residential neighborhood now which is particularly unsuitable for our impact.
In the new location, the property is set back off the road. We will have a fairly deep entrance that will lead into the center of the property. Services will be far more extensive based on what we see as current needs: we will increase the number of beds in Sabbath House to 50, add 10-15 family rooms, create a single entry point that houses kitchen/dining room, a low barrier shelter (100 year-round beds), pet services, a day center, vocational training, showers, free store, etc. The final part of the campus will be focused on physical and mental health including collaborating partners from private hospitals to public county services.
Folks experiencing homelessness are already spread out throughout the community. Transportation is always a challenge and we will be working to mitigate the challenges and make it worth their while when they reach the new location.
Our team is very committed to not simply “move the problem”. In fact, we are doing copious amounts of research in an effort to identify best practices: what we have found out that nationally such projects are located in similarly zoned to the new location. We have visited over 10 cities to tour and meet with key service providers in those communities. For instance, our team visited Napa, CA and met with the operators of the South Napa Shelter that is both located within a commerce district and is currently in expansion mode to consolidate services in one location. We also met with the Napa PD Outreach Team and see the results they have experienced by prioritizing outreach for the population we serve. It is a movement towards engagement as opposed to our current model of ‘waiting for them”. In addition to the zoning, we are also seeing a movement towards collaborative services in a single location.
An ad hoc group of businesses, Torres Shelter and Jesus Center has been built to address the safety issues in the new neighborhood. We will build a robust safety plan to coordinate our efforts, maximize resources already being spent, and draw more people into services who are eager to change their lives.
“If you build it, they will come”… is this valid?
Our collective response to homelessness has not substantially changed in the last decade. The number of shelter beds has not increased and we still don’t have the ability to shelter someone who isn’t sober more than 12 weeks a year. And even so, the problems have increased here and throughout the state and country. If we do nothing new, we will still see gaps and increased needs. Instead, we need to rally together and put all of our creativity together and pool our resources.
Building a set of services that work together, share data, coordinate, and are progressive gives our community an ability to help people end their homelessness, get stabilized and find a path to housing and wholeness. Services will be built to preserve each human’s dignity. When at all possible, the services will be reciprocal and those who get help will have an opportunity to give back. Those who engage in their restoration (individualized for each person) will find help and support.
Importance of Accountability/service card. Each participant now is invited to have a one on one meeting with a staff member, share their particular needs, and sign an agreement for services. They are then issued a service card that is scanned when they access services at the Center. This program will be expanded at our new campus. With increasing national numbers, we are seeing many communities implement protocols as a way to provide for those who are already in our community, and identifying them as the priority. Other communities and service providers have been successful at mitigating their concerns of this “build it and they will come”. For instance, Mendocino County is working towards service protocols that would allow for brief respite for non-residents, but would not extend full access to service provisions.
Isn’t the answer to homelessness, permanent housing? Why would you spend the time and energy on shelters, and other non-permanent housing interventions?
There are many interventions needed to move a person without stable housing into stable housing. The Jesus Center has always worked at the respite and restoration stages: providing basic services, emergency sheltering, transitional housing. There are many other service providers who are working to develop permanent housing and housing first options. We will collaborate with them but not get into the permanent housing business.
How does the faith based piece work in a community approach?
The Jesus Center is founded in God’s love for all people. Our core value of being Christ Centered suggests that we follow Jesus’ example of honoring and valuing the poor and the outcast. We do our best to follow his example. We offer the love and salvation of Christ to those we serve; we do not force, coerce or require belief to receive services. We will not deviate from these beliefs or from our practices that honor each human.
If you leave Park Ave., how will people currently downtown reach your services?
The recent study out of Chico State shows that the movement of folks experiencing homelessness is moving progressively north. The fact is, no matter where we are we will not reach everyone. Our community’s long range plans include some use of mobile services and a formal street outreach team so as to mitigate unnecessary congregating in any one area and insure that those who do not come for services, receive invitations for help.
What the new location affords us is a 4 acre campus on which we can build new resources, co-locate with county providers and other non profits who don’t have a location currently. We will create a set of services all in one place which will have a better ability to meet key needs without the need to travel here and there.
For example, Butte County Behavioral Health, Butte County Public Health and Department of Social Services will have staff stationed at our new location. Closer ties with Veterans Resource Center, Esplanade House, Catalyst Domestic Violence Services, and Help Central 211 Butte County will enrich our collective offerings and make us all more efficient.
The new location will provide outdoor and indoor day space.
How do the other current Service Providers feel about this project?
From the very beginning of this project we have been committed to listening to our colleagues within the service provider community. We started our discussions with Torres Shelter (as the closest agency to the proposed site and our key partner) when this project opportunity presented itself. Then we held key stakeholder meetings that more than 30 community agencies attended over four days. Those meetings then led to one on one or small group meetings where we listened to the others in our community who are doing the work with our unsheltered population. These conversations were vital to first our community, and then to this project. And because our intention is to build a community response, these discussions all will lead to a final set of integrated services.
Our current partners include: City of Chico, Butte County Behavioral Health, Butte County Public Health, Department of Social Services, Enloe Medical Center, Ampla Health, Help Central 211 Butte County, Safe Space Winter Shelter, Veterans Resource Center, Catalyst Domestic Violence Services, Butte County Office of Education, Community Action Agency, Salvation Army, Youth for Change, Torres Community Shelter, North Valley Catholic Social Services, Butte Countywide Homeless Continuum of Care, and Butte College.
What is the timeline?
November 2017: The city council voted to approve the concept and authorized the City Manager to continue exploring the opportunity.
Winter 2018: Group and individual stakeholder and business meetings have occurred.; Intent to Collaborate Documents developed and signed
June 2018: Appraisal and Surplus Land Act completed
September 2018: Report and request to purchase the land from the City
January 2019: Begin final architectural planning and space allocation
January 2020: Break Ground