Regional Homeless Planning Symposium convenes for second meeting

The Butte County Department of Employment and Social Services continues to gather feedback on a plan to develop a regionalized approach to addressing homelessness in the North State.

 The Butte County Housing and Homeless Team held a Regional Housing Planning Symposium, the second of three meetings, on Monday, Dec. 4

The latest meeting featured testimony from three people who had previously experienced homelessness. This provides valuable insight into the root causes of homelessness as well as barriers that stand in the way of finding stable housing.

“We often need to hear a first-hand recount to better understand something as complicated as chronic poverty and homelessness,” said Jesica Giannola, one of three panelists who spoke at the symposium.

Giannola— a housing advocate who ran for Chico City Council in 2022—has shared her experience with homelessness during symposiums, webinars and interviews in recent years.

“I am the oldest of five children and grew up in extreme poverty. Our living situation varied from living in tents at different points, to vehicles, to faulty recreational vehicles not meant for long-term living, and at a few rare points-our large family managed to fit into a small house for a short period of time.”

Things that many take for granted—such an education and access to showers and bathrooms—were often hard to come by during Jesica’s childhood. 

“As with many children of poverty, I continued on in the cycle of abuse as a survivor of domestic violence,” she said.  “I was able to finally benefit from wrap-around case management that connected me to services that would change my future. I received help with connecting to affordable housing, securing an income, continuing my education and my move to Chico for CSUChico, and in supporting my children through a healthy childhood.”

Giannola now works as a housing case manager, helping to connect people with resources to secure stable housing.

By sharing her story—Jesica hopes to change the narrative on homelessness while using her experience to build trust among members of the unhoused community.

“Society would need to see homelessness as a symptom of the larger systemic problem that we have nationwide –that the cost of living is largely far too high, housing costs consume the majority of our livable income, and there are too many barriers in place that keep people from successful renting. Even if someone could afford the month-to-month rent, it’s nearly impossible to get accepted to a unit without the most ideal of qualifications.”

Giannola hopes that her lived experience will help to change perspectives on homelessness while guiding policy change moving forward. 

“I would hope that people will take away the various points where I may have been let down by systems and society and see the points that made the critical difference in survival and sustainability,” she said. “Generational poverty is a hard cycle to break, and those stuck in the middle of it often do not benefit from strong-supportive contacts in their life that can teach them about resources and various programs.”