City Hall finally putting muscle behind homelessness rhetoric

After 10 months, the business model of Fresno’s homelessness program is failing. George Hostetter finds out why.


I stopped at the McDonald’s just north of Olive for pit stop. Abby turns into Blackstone here.


I crossed to the east side of Blackstone. It’s still pretty dark. Up ahead I hear what sounds like a small party. I cross the west side, just to be safe.

“Blackstone and Pine. Across the street on the east side – some sort of get-together. Half-dozen guys, hanging out in the dark – some kind of rap-type music going on.”

My wife and I lived in the 1500 block of North Popular Avenue from 1983 to 1994. That’s four houses south of McKinley Avenue. Fresno City College is across the street.

I was approaching Blackstone and McKinley – a most familiar intersection.

“Taco Bell on one side of Blackstone at McKinley – Carl’s Jr. on the other side. What is it? 8:15. Not much action at either place. This is my old neighborhood. Nothing happening.”

I saw a woman wearing just a blouse and shorts dart along the side of the Sebring West automatic center at Blackstone and University Avenue. She disappeared around a corner.

I passed the Wendy’s across from Ratcliffe Stadium.

“The question is – what kind of general plan and what kind of development code could possibly fix this in a hundred years? OK – how could they fix it in 20 years? What would have to happen? There would be brand new developments – mixed use. There would be boutiques and restaurants and coffee shops for miles. They would be on the bottom. On the top would be condos. Hmmm … there are homeless items in front of what used to be Pizza Hut. It’s all waiting for the people to return.”

I was heading toward the Blackstone/Clinton Avenue intersection – scene of the great Ashley Swearengin-Clint Olivier war of spring 2015. It all centered on what kind of Smart & Final project should go onto the southwest corner of Blackstone and Clinton Avenue.

In the end, nothing went there. Smart & Final got fed up with the fight, choosing to move into the former Save Mart site across the street. But I wasn’t thinking of old battles. I was thinking of street lights.

“From Smart & Final up to – what is it, Princeton? – it’s dark. Not many street lights, and what few there are – out. Blackstone and Brown – they’re both out. Makes for a very dark corner. Cars at Bobby Salazar’s. But it’s dark over there. There’s a street light in front of Bobby Salazar’s – it’s out.”

Maybe it was the darkness. Maybe it was the cold. Maybe it was the motorcycle cop giving someone a ticket as I passed by. Something again triggered my philosophical bent.

“So, this is where the millennials are going to come and live. When they get well into their lives, they’re going to say, ‘Blackstone! Blackstone Avenue! That’s the place to be!’ And they’ll all be hip. They’ll want to live in a condo in a mixed-use place. And they’ll say, ‘Restaurants! That’s what we want. We want restaurants. And we want nothing but local music. And we want to live fronting Blackstone, and we’re going to walk up and down Blackstone.’ And this is going to happen on both sides of Blackstone for eight miles? You know what I think? I think there will always be something like the millennials – something that’s always the great hope. It’s always going to be the next generation that’s going to do it on Blackstone. If only each generation wouldn’t get old.”

  1. What about addressing private efforts to assist homeless people like the Eco Village Project’s Dakota EcoGarden, and our mission to build a village like the ones in Oregon, Washington, Texas, New Mexico, etc. How about the merits of the city joining forces for a public/private coalition to respond to the homeless problem? The city turns a blind eye to private resources like the Dakota EcoGarden and won’t put any skin in the game. You know, the city doesn’t a lock on answers to the problem. Brainstorming with dedicated groups who have put their money, blood, sweat, and tears into helping homeless people might be just what the city needs to refine its perspective and come up with a diffrent or modified game plan.

  2. There’s a huge disconnect here. What happened to the 1300 who visited MapPoint?. I personally know many, including mentally ill folks, who have not been helped with housing. So how does it help to put more staff at map point? Someone needs to get on the job of actually finding or making the housing happen. One point that needs to be acknowledged is that homeless folks may refuse housing that they see as being in the middle of drug infested neighborhoods and/or housing that requires them to get rid of beloved pets.

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