Fresno

Grand Jury finds too many “helping hands” to be a detriment for Fresno County homeless response

Fresno County’s omnipresent homelessness crisis is struggling to be curtailed because too many irons are in the fire.

That’s the take of Fresno County’s Civil Grand Jury, which released its 2019-2020 report on Tuesday – including a look at the county’s homelessness situation.

Titled “Solving Homelessness Challenges Threatened By Too Many ‘Helping Hands,’” the grand jury evaluated the worsening condition of the homelessness situation and found that there has not been a clear strategic plan to address the crisis.

“Homelessness is a dynamic and complicated issue that requires a comprehensive, coordinated approach to create long-term sustainable solutions. Unfortunately, a ‘crib sheet’ is required to keep track of all the governmental and nonprofit entities working to resolve this challenge locally,” the report reads.

“As a result, duplicative and sometimes overlapping roles, fuzzy lines of authority, and a myriad of often-competing initiatives make it difficult to measure the effectiveness of the actions initiated to address homelessness in Fresno County. As a result, the City of Fresno and County of Fresno’s current efforts lack coordination and threaten the very objective to be achieved: eliminating, or greatly reducing, homelessness.”

The grand jury found that fault lies with Fresno County, the City of Fresno, and various other government agencies and nonprofits for failing to come together with a clear singular vision to combat the rise in homelessness. 

The grand jury also found that the county’s response also was complicated by various requirements of federal, state and private funding sources.

“It became clear to the Grand Jury that there was no single organization that had ultimate accountability for oversight of the various programs and services being provided in Fresno County,” the report reads. “This lack of coordinated effort has contributed to the problem rather than support successful outcomes.”

The 2020 Fresno Madera Continuum of Care point-in-time count revealed over 3,600 people were experiencing homelessness, which translated to a 45 percent increase over the previous year.

With the number of homeless individuals increasing, the grand jury found that there is a “lack of robust central coordination” with all of the services that are designed to help the homeless.

Along with the lack of inter-communication between the various entities, the grand jury determined that there is a lack of communication with the public at-large regarding the services provided for the homeless as well as the success of efforts to curb the problem.

The grand jury also found that the Fresno Madera Continuum of Care does not adequately communicate its operations to silence concerns that potential conflicts of interest do not exist among board members.

Among the several recommendations submitted by the grand jury is a request for the City of Fresno and Fresno County to perform and publish quarterly audits of all homeless grants to ensure that funds are being spent appropriately, services are being provided and goals are being met.

Daniel Gligich is a reporter for The San Joaquin Valley Sun, focusing on Fresno State Athletics and the southern San Joaquin Valley. Email him at daniel.gligich@sjvsun.com.