CSU, Chico News

Town Hall Discussion Focuses on Homelessness and Mental Illness

Date: 10-02-2009

Joe Wills
Public Affairs

Homelessness and mental illness in Butte County will be addressed at a special campus and community town hall meeting Wednesday, Oct. 14, in the Bell Memorial Union Auditorium at California State University, Chico.

The town hall meeting will be from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Everyone in attendance will have an opportunity to actively participate in discussions and problem-solving. The event is free and the public is encouraged to attend.

Participants will include city and university leaders, providers of services to the homeless and mentally ill, and residents who are or who have been homeless and/or mentally ill.

The purpose of the town hall meeting is to learn more about current services and continuing challenges related to homelessness and mental illness in Butte County and propose solutions or next steps for the community.

The meeting is being held in conjunction with this year’s CSU, Chico Book in Common, “The Soloist,” the story of a newspaper columnist’s friendship with homeless musician Nathaniel Ayres, which raises issues about the plight of the homeless and mentally ill. The Book in Common program and town hall meetings are important components of CSU, Chico’s First Year Experience Program, which is designed to help first-year students succeed in their transition to university life and become active community participants.

The Book in Common program has grown into a university-community partnership. Community partners include Enloe Medical Center, Butte County Library, Lyon Books, Barnes and Noble, Jesus Center, Torres Shelter, Butte Behavioral Health, and Chico Unified School District, in addition to CSU, Chico and the City of Chico.

Chico Mayor Ann Schwab and CSU, Chico President Paul Zingg will open the Oct. 14 town hall meeting. A new three-minute film shot in Butte County, “Who are The Soloists Among Us?”, will be shown at the start of the proceedings.

Following the film, a panel discussion on homelessness and mental illness will be held. Scheduled panelists include John Rucker, City of Chico; Katrina Davis-Woodcox, Downtown Chico Business Association; Rick Reynolds, Butte County Behavioral Health; Meagan Meloy, Butte County Continuum of Care; Debbie Villasenor, Mental Health Services Act housing consultant; and a resident who has experienced being homeless.

Town hall participants will be seated at tables in the BMU Auditorium to facilitate small-group discussions. After the panel discussion, the table groups will have approximately one hour to share ideas and solutions to issues that have been raised. Each table will have a note-taker who will forward notes to the town hall leaders. Following the town hall meeting, participants will be e-mailed a written report based on the ideas from the small groups.

The meeting will conclude with remarks from City Council member Andy Holcombe, Jesus Center Executive Director Bill Such and CSU, Chico Dean of Undergraduate Education Bill Loker.

“We really would like people from all walks of life to participate,” said Thia Wolf, First Year Experience Program director and CSU, Chico town hall coordinator. “We think this meeting will matter most if a wide variety of people come and contribute their ideas and perspectives.”

For more information, call 898-3705 or e-mail fye@csuchico.edu.

A calendar of Book in Common events is available at www.csuchico.edu/bic and includes information about films, lectures, town hall meetings and other events.