Proven model for transitional camping – Chico Enterprise-Record

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There is already a great model of transitional campground for those who for whatever reason have lost their permanent accommodation. In Chapter 22 of his classic 1939 novel “The Grapes of Wrath,” author John Steinbeck describes a fictional setting that was apparently based on a government-provided camp for migrants dispossessed of the dust bowls that once existed here even in Butte County. The staffed facility contained hygiene units (showers, toilets and laundry), spaces for tents and vehicles, and even an outdoor dance pavilion.

An important feature was the participation of residents in governance through a camp committee. Another key component of the camp was the requirement that residents pay a small fee per week or contribute an equivalent amount of labor for maintenance. No one has been denied the dignity or responsibility to contribute to their own upkeep. Those who did not have childcare responsibilities had to work or look for work.

In recent years, the city of Chico and especially our many non-governmental organizations have stepped forward and done their best to support the growing number of citizens who have lost the ability to support themselves. But this work is far too important for the municipalities. The inhabitants of public spaces seem concentrated in sought-after coastal areas and in socially libertarian university towns. We will need a series of publicly funded camps, perhaps built on the Steinbeck model, stretching from San Diego to the Oregon border and beyond. Obviously, state or federal funding will be essential.

– Carl Ochsner, Chico


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