Safe Space secures its site, finds common ground with Chico officials – Chico Enterprise-Record

Evan Tuchinsky, Michael Weber


CHICO — On the heels of an emergency Chico City Council meeting that brought out a chamber full of impassioned citizens on a weekend, Safe Space Chico and city officials found common ground in a conversation Tuesday afternoon.

Safe Space confirmed that the parking lot at Trinity United Methodist Church will remain the site of the winter shelter’s intake center for the duration of the season. The city confirmed the use conforms to city zoning requirements and clarified lines of communication between the nonprofit and city hall.

Two councilors, Sean Morgan and Addison Winslow, attended Tuesday’s meeting in the office of City Manager Mark Sorensen, which ran about 45 minutes. Also participating were Safe Space executive director Hilary Crosby and board president Rick Narad; Deputy City Manager Jennifer Macarthy; Community Development Director Brendan Vieg; Public Works Director Erik Gustafson; Matthew Thiede, owner of the building Safe Space initially used as an intake center at 101 Main St.; and Larry Wahl, a planning commissioner and former councilor and Butte County supervisor who represented the church.

The United Trinity Methodist Church parking lot, where Safe Space Chico will continue to hold intake for its winter shelter program, is seen Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2024, in Chico, California. (Michael Weber/Enterprise-Record)

Morgan and Winslow told this newspaper afterward that they came away feeling positive, with Winslow describing the meeting as “an interesting interpersonal experience.” Both said Saturday’s council session didn’t influence the outcome — at that point, Safe Space already neared a season-long agreement with the church and had Tuesday’s meeting with the city scheduled.

Mayor Andrew Coolidge called the rare weekend meeting after Safe Space conducted its intake activities Friday evening at the Fred Davis Municipal Center near the iconic “Our Hands” sculpture. Earlier Friday, city code enforcement followed up on a previously issued notice of violation by fining Thiede for Safe Space’s continued use of the former 7-Eleven building at First and Main streets.

“On Saturday, the relationship between the city and Safe Space was at a low point,” Winslow said. “We are in a much better place — a decently good place.”

Said Morgan: “If I had to have one phrase that came out of that meeting, it’s ‘good neighbor.’ Both sides said listen, a well-managed intake center is fine. You need to be a good neighbor, you need to be aware of the peripheral impact of the things that you do.

“The good news is, moving forward, everyone knows how to get in touch with everybody else. It was made clear that it’s not the city’s responsibility in any way, shape or form to find them an intake center; we don’t run nonprofits. Having said that, we’ll do what we can to help.”

The crux of the discussion, Morgan continued, was “how do we move forward and protect the entire community, not just the segment that Safe Space serves? I was encouraged going into the meeting; having left it, I felt, ‘OK, this makes sense.’”

‘Gonna make it work’

Safe Space came away similarly satisfied. Narad said the city seems happy with the current intake center at the church and that the nonprofit now has a single point of contact with Gustafson to better establish communication with the city. This will help clear up any confusion in communication, and he thinks the change will be positive going forward.

A sign redirecting Safe Space Chico guests to the new location for intake is seen posted Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2024, at 101 Main St., the initial site of the winter shelter intake center in downtown Chico, California. (Michael Weber/Enterprise-Record)

The city and Safe Space will meet semiannually — before summer, when Safe Space operates a cooling center, and before winter.

As far as its intake operations, the church agreed to let Safe Space continue there through March, Narad said. Containers for bicycles, canopy tents for inclement weather and portable toilets are slated to come to the church to mitigate the loss of indoor storage available at the Main Street location.

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2024-01-10 02:14:55 , News – Chico Enterprise-Record

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