New shelter tour

The 177 Pallet dwellings are in place at city's South Chico site

Construction of the new homeless shelter at the former site of the Silver Dollar BMX race track in South Chico is nearly complete, but the facility’s opening date remains unclear. The remaining obstacles, according to City Manager Mark Orme, are working out fine details with the federal court (the site must meet requirements ordered in the settlement of the Warren v. City of Chico lawsuit) and securing necessary service providers.

That was the takeaway from a press conference held Thursday (Feb. 3) morning at 2352 Martin Luther King, Jr. Parkway, during a media tour of what’s officially known as the Chico Emergency Non-Congregate Housing Site. Mayor Andrew Coolidge, Orme and Public Works Operations & Maintenance Director Erik Gustafson were on-hand to answer questions.

Thus far, the 177 Pallet shelters have all been constructed and placed into rows on hard-packed soil. Above-ground electrical conduits, which will allow for easy moving and rearranging of the buildings, have been installed, but Gustafson said crews are still wiring up each unit. All of the 64-square-foot buildings—which each include two drop-down platforms for beds—will have heating, air conditioning and electricity.

An old portable building at the site will be dismantled and replaced with a newer structure, according to Orme. This will serve as office space for the site’s yet-to-be-selected operator and outreach staff from Butte County’s Department of Behavioral Health and Employment and Social Services. An existing brick-and-and-mortar restroom in the area will remain, and hand-washing stations and portable toilets are already in place; more will be added as shelters are filled.

Orme said the city recently picked two contractors for services called for in the settlement—shower and laundry service and to provide meals at the site (two small à la carte meals and a full dinner). He didn’t name the organizations, saying the information would be made public in the next few days. He also said two applicants are being considered to operate the site, and that a decision will likely be made next week.

Orme said other details, like how intake to the site will be handled and general rules, are still being hammered out with court officials and the plaintiffs’ counsel from Warren v. Chico.

“One of the complexities to this entire process which I think a lot of folks don’t understand is we still meet with the judge who’s overseeing this regularly,” Orme said. “As we go through this process there’s a lot of things I would love to be able to share all the details, but they still have to be worked out. It’s not just the city making these determinations. We’re the ones presenting the proposals to the judge, sitting down with the plaintiffs’ counsel.

“One thing I’ve come to learn is there is no definite date that I can tell you anything will occur; it’s a legal process,” he continued. “If I was building a street I could tell you when it’s gonna be built, how it’s gonna be built and the time frame, contingent upon weather. This is not only contingent on weather, but other legal aspects.”

With that caveat, Orme said, “Hopefully we’ll open this place up within the month.”

  • Each Pallet shelter has two drop-down platforms for sleeping. (Photo by Ken Smith)

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