An excellent model already exists of a transitional campground for those who—for whatever reason—have lost their permanent housing. 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 dispossessed dust bowl migrants that once existed right here 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 residents participating in governance through a camp committee. Another key element of the camp was the requirement that residents either pay a modest fee per week or else contribute an equivalent amount of labor toward maintenance. No one was denied the dignity or the responsibility of contributing to their own upkeep. Those without child care responsibilities were expected to be working or looking for work.
Over recent years, the City of Chico and especially our many non-governmental organizations have stepped forward and tried their best to support the growing number of citizens who have lost the ability to provide for themselves. But this job is way too big for municipalities to handle. People living in public spaces appear to be concentrated in desirable coastal zones and in socially libertarian university towns. We will require a string 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