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City Hall finally putting muscle behind homelessness rhetoric

BASE OF OPERATIONS

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Mike, 65. Photo by George Hostetter.

It was a few minutes before 10 when I got to the Target store near Bullard Avenue. The place was still open for business. Shoppers were going in and out.

“I can see why the homeless, the vagrants, the hobos, the drifters, the hustlers – I can see why they would want to stay north of Ashlan or north of Shaw. Much safer.”

I had seen homeless people throughout my journey – not a lot, but enough to know they’re out there. For example, there was an older man with a white beard on the sidewalk east of the Arby’s restaurant at Blackstone and Sierra Avenue. He had four shopping carts, full to the brim with stuff.

But it wasn’t until I got opposite of the Flooring Liquidators store halfway between Sierra and Herndon Avenue that I got a real sense of what’s out there at night.

“Well, Flooring Liquidators – closed. There’s got to be a half dozen homeless people there. Makeshift tents. They’re just camped out across the entire storefront. You can hear them talking on my side of the street. They’re there. They’re going to be there for the night. The question is: Do they stay there all night? Or do they fan out, then come back? If they fan out, where do they go at 2 in the morning? Well, that’s the question. They have to be somewhat mobile. They don’t stay there 24/7 for the entire month. So, what do they do? It’s about 10:10. They’re in the shadow of Blackstone and Herndon.”

I had another observation as I crossed Herndon.

“I haven’t seen a patrol car for a while. I don’t know if they get out here. Are they all south of Shaw? They’re not getting up here.”

Another 15 minutes brought me to a Carl’s Jr.

“What a relief – I’m at River Park and the various River Park shopping centers. Bright lights. People. Safety. Much better.”

I put my tape recorder in my pocket. I didn’t use it again.

But as I was standing next to the Carl’s Jr., waiting to cross Alluvial Avenue, I saw an older man coming my way. He beat the red light.

The man was pushing a small cart piled high with stuff. He was slim and weathered.

“Where are you headed?” I said.

“I’ve got a place up head, between two buildings,” he said.

“Are you safe?”

He shrugged his shoulders.

We exchanged names. He was Mike.

“I’m 65, Mike,” I said.

“I’m 62.”

“Mike, why aren’t you headed to a warm home like I am?”

“I lost my check, and then I ….” Mike’s chatter trailed off into silence. I didn’t pursue the matter. But I did tell him about Sgt. Dewey and the Homeless Task Force.

“Sgt. Dewey,” Mike said as he headed south on Blackstone Avenue, backbone of the new Fresno. “I’ll call him.”

My son picked me up at the Barnes & Noble bookstore.

George Hostetter is The Sun’s Fresno Civic contributor – covering the City of Fresno, County of Fresno, and Fresno Council of Governments.

2 Comments

  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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