Camp Fire Shelter or Homeless Encampment: Red Cross still sheltering hundreds in Chico

California Highway Patrol pulled over with a trailer in front of the Silver Dollar Fairgrounds in Chico, California.

At one point 32,000 people, Camp Fire evacuees and others, were staying at various Red Cross shelters throughout Butte County and surrounding areas when the Camp Fire broke out on November 8.

Since, then the Red Cross shelters have been consolidated into one shelter at the Silver Dollar Fairgrounds in Chico. On Friday January 11, the Red Cross said they had 657 registered people staying with them at the shelter. It's been over two months since the Camp Fire broke out.

"People have just been coming because they need a place to stay. We are trying to get everyone to register and it's a security thing as well as it being able to provide the resources," says Dianna Van Horn, a Public Affairs Representative for the Red Cross. "There are some people who were not necessarily affected by the fire but they still need a safe place to stay just like everyone else," added Van Horn.

Anyone who needs temporary housing, whether caused by crisis or not, including transients, are welcome at the Red Cross shelter. That is because part of the Red Cross's mission is to turn away no one during a time of crisis whether that person was affected by the disaster or not.

While there are 657 registered victims of the Camp Fire staying at the Silver Dollar Fairgrounds, it is unclear how many additional people are staying there who were not affected by the Camp Fire.

Many are camping outside in trailers. According to the Red Cross, anyone who is not registered with the organization is not allowed to stay inside.

"I was living in a bed one night and all of a sudden I'm living in my car for a month," said Jeff Woodman, a Paradise resident staying outside in a trailer at the fairgrounds. "When I first got here most the people inside weren't even from Paradise. And I've seen some of them and they weren't friendly people at all. Every day I see someone else who just got beat up, things like that happen here," Woodman says.

Nonetheless, many victims expressed gratitude to the Red Cross for sheltering them and feeding them three meals a day.

KRCR was not allowed inside the shelter, but talked to victims outside.

"Here you got people that have no idea how to live outside their realm and some of them have a hard time with it and they give other people a a hard time because they're having a really hard time," said Woodman.

Law enforcement frequently patrols the area for safety and security.

On January 5 the Red Cross said a woman was transported to the hospital. The Butte County Sheriff's Office identified Alice Cummings, age 61 of Magalia, as that woman who died the next day in the hospital.

"I just know that she reported to the medical staff and they felt that her condition was serious enough to transport her to the hospital so they called transport and took her to the hospital immediately. We don't necessarily keep touch with them after that," said Van Horn.

At this time there is no confirmation that this or any illness was contracted at the shelter.

The Red Cross says their contract expires with the Silver Dollar Fairgrounds at the end of the month on January 31. They say they plan on closing the shelter then, "We are aware of the fact that not everyone is going to have a place to go, especially by the end of the month," said Van Horn.

Van Horn added that the Red Cross could find another place to open a shelter if the need is still there, although they do not anticipate opening another one at this time.

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