While I was still sleeping last Thursday, up in the middle of the Feather River Canyon, something went very wrong and a small fire ignited. With winds of more than 50 miles per hour, that blaze began to change the destiny of northern Butte County forever.
The Ridge burned, and homes and businesses and lives were lost.
We are now at the cusp of a new era. Butte County’s residents will have to reach deep and establish new levels of patience and tolerance and empathy. We may have to deal with a population of 30,000-plus people without an undamaged home.
Many of those evacuees will settle initially in the greater Chico area.
As we all know, Chico has been ideologically cleaved for several years over the issue of how to respond to homeless individuals. Our recent City Council election reflected the division within our city.
Today, we must learn to deal with a new definition of homeless: our neighbors, the thousands of families that now no longer have a home of their own. They need immediate help and support from all of us. And we must all rise to the occasion.
We need leadership. Oh my, do we need leadership.
We need a compassionate mayor and a supportive City Council to put down the ideological banners and show that Chico is a city with a heart. Homelessness is no longer a theoretical trigger point. Homelessness is tens of thousands of former residents of north Butte County camped at shelters and parking lots that just escaped Armageddon.
If anyone within Chico’s leadership circle cannot respond compassionately to this situation, those individuals should immediately resign their positions. Double talk and political loyalty will not help our new and devastated homeless population.
Chico, please rise to the occasion.