Chico, a community of 90,000 is now home to 20,000 new residents seeking refuge from neighboring Paradise after the Camp Fire of November 2018. Chico, like many American cities, was dealing with its own issue of homelessness before the Camp Fire, plus a very low vacancy rate. Now Chico has a 20,000 person increase in population and officials and citizens are working on housing solutions for two distinct populations that are intersecting.
Jennifer Williams and I are in Washington, IL this week. Washington was hit by an EF-4 tornado last November 17. The storm damaged over 1000 homes and we wanted to visit Washington to see where the town is in its recovery less than three months after the disaster.
We spent Monday surveying the damage and rebuilding efforts. We saw what one might expect – a very mixed picture of where people are right now. Some homes are well on the way to being rebuilt, others are in a surreal state – the front of the house ripped off – exposing still made beds, other furniture still on the second story – clothes hanging in the closets. The only thing that makes these pictures bearable at this point in the story is the sound of hammering and sawing in the background – comforting sounds in this community determined to build back stronger than ever.