What Are Next Steps in Fresno’s Effort to Reduce Homelessness? – GV Wire

The city of Fresno has added hundreds of shelter beds to provide emergency and temporary shelter, as well as transitional housing, to unhoused residents amid the pandemic, according to local leaders.

It also provided homelessness services to thousands of people between July 2019 and December 2021, they said.

Melissa Montalvo


But the city has more work to do to serve the needs of the region’s homeless population, city officials and homeless advocates said during last Thursday’s city council meeting.

“We made progress, but there’s no cause for celebration,” H Spees, director of housing and homelessness for the city of Fresno, said during the meeting, while providing an update on the city’s efforts to address homelessness.

Fresno’s Homeless Population Estimated at 4,200

City leaders estimate that Fresno’s homeless population is about 4,200, while the Fresno-Madera homeless population is about 5,200.

Between July 2019 and December 2021, the Fresno area received more than $144 million from federal, state, and local sources to increase homelessness services in 2021. These funds went to the city, the county, the Fresno Madera Continuum of Care, and the Fresno Housing Authority.

The city of Fresno received $60 million of that funding, which it used to add 510 shelter beds and provide emergency and temporary shelter and transitional housing. The city only had 10 shelter beds in its charge before the pandemic, according to city leaders.

The city said it assisted 8,019 people with one or more services between July 2019 and December 2021, but acknowledged that some people could have been double-counted if they engaged with one or of the city’s services. Newly council president Nelson Esparza said the city has made progress in its homelessness response, but asked to see more detail in the city’s plan to address the causes of the “exponential” growth in homelessness.

“That’s really been probably the biggest impediment to progress,” said Esparza.

Criticism of the city’s homelessness response came just days before the Fresno County Grand Jury this week released a final report on its 2019-2020 investigations. Jurors found that Fresno County and the city of Fresno’s homelessness responses lacked oversight and transparency.

Fresno Homelessness Increases 43% Since Pandemic Started

City officials said they estimate that the Fresno-Madera area homeless population experienced a 43% increase from the pre-pandemic 2020 estimate of 3,641.

Officials are expected to release an updated estimate of the Fresno-Madera region’s homeless population later this year, after the annual point-in-time count takes place Feb. 23-25. As part of the count, Fresno service providers go out and tally the number of people experiencing homelessness. It is a crucial metric to help government officials calculate the amount of money needed to help the people living on the city’s streets, but some homeless advocates say the count is inaccurate and could actually be much higher.

The count was canceled last year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Jody Ketcheside, vice chair of the Fresno Madera Continuum of Care, which oversees the point-in-time count, said she expects the area’s homeless population to either stay the same or be “a little higher” based on what she’s seeing and hearing on the streets.

20% of Fresno Renters at Risk of Becoming Homeless

Housing advocates say that without protections and affordable housing options, many of Fresno’s renters risk entering into homelessness.