Fresno · Madera

Fresno inks coordinated coronavirus homeless response

Just shy of one month after the Newsom administration announced more than $1 million in emergency homeless services funding for the City of Fresno to respond to coronavirus, the Fresno City Council unanimously voted Thursday to formally fund a coordinated homelessness response with the County of Fresno and the Fresno-Madera Continuum of Care.

Newsom’s administration doled out an additional $382,000 in similar homeless coronavirus response funding for the County of Fresno and $488,000 to the Fresno-Madera regional homeless agency.

Since the Governor’s announcement on March 19, officials with the City and County of Fresno have negotiated about how best to coordinate, with both sides privately admitting a willingness to go alone if a strategy couldn’t be developed.

The City of Fresno was the final agency to approve the deal, owing to a technical change over the shared liability and mutual indemnification between the City and County of Fresno.

Yet, prior to the approval of a formal contract, the three agencies were already at work securing hotel rooms as triage sites for unsheltered homeless who may have contracted coronavirus.

Thus far, the three government agencies have yet to receive their state funds.

“The agreement solidifies what we’ve already been doing for a month,” Fresno City Council president Miguel Arias said. “We didn’t waste anytime getting to work.”

Arias added that the city anticipates receiving its $1 million in state emergency homeless funds in June.

In sum, Arias noted that the program has sheltered approximately 330 unsheltered homeless residents in Fresno along with some unsheltered domestic violence victims.

The sites being utilized by the joint effort include the Hacienda, Comprehensive Addiction Program facilities, the Marjaree Mason Center, Poverello House, Fresno Rescue Mission, along with various local hotels.

Fresno County Supervisor and Board Chairman Buddy Mendes was elated that the joint effort was moving forward, arguing it allowed all entities to shift focus from negotiations and preparatory work and place all focus on delivering services.

Currently, Fresno County is working to secure additional hotel rooms in Sanger and Selma to assist rural homeless populations.

Arias added that there’s more work to be done, with roughly $3 million in additional homeless coronavirus response funding headed from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and goals of not only mitigating the spread coronavirus among the indigent population but transitioning them into permanent or semi-permanent housing.

Alex Tavlian
Alex Tavlian is the Executive Editor of The San Joaquin Valley Sun and Executive Director of Valley Future Foundation. You can reach Alex at alex.tavlian@sjvsun.com.