In the wake of the first of three homeless camp sweeps planned through early September, the Fresno Housing Authority said Wednesday that 51 of an estimated 275 people living in the downtown encampments have received housing.
The goal is to house between 75 to 100 of the displaced, although where the rest will go is unknown, said Doreen Eley, assistant housing manager for the housing authority.
The agency is partnered with Fresno First Steps Home and collectively have pooled about $535,000 to help the most vulnerable find housing, Eley said.
Among them so far are pregnant women in late stages of pregnancy, people with mental and physical health issues, and veterans, she said.
Those with income pay no more than 30% toward rent, and those without receive help acquiring income so they can pay their portion, said Eley.
In July, the city of Fresno announced the planned three-week sweep of the encampments. City officials said crime had increased in the camps, and health and safety problems were rampant, including numerous fires. The first cleanup started Monday at G and Santa Clara, and moved into a three-block area including E, and F streets next to the Poverello House. The area was cleared out by Wednesday morning.
As of Tuesday, more than 48 tons of debris were removed and thrown away, said Jerry Schuber, Fresno's solid waste division manager.
The next sweep begins Sept. 3 at Los Angeles and E streets in old Germantown, and the final one will focus on H Street south of Ventura Avenue starting Sept. 9.
Eley said the housing authority has been working with a number of groups as part of Fresno Madera Continuum of Care to reach out to the city's homeless.
Since mid-June, the authority has held a "Community Connect" event every Wednesday at the Poverello House where homeless have been invited to fill out housing and health surveys to identify their needs.
The authority has information about 725 homeless in their database, Eley said. Based on a one-night count of visible homeless on the streets in February, the authority says there are at least 3,100 homeless throughout Fresno and Madera counties.
Regarding this week's razing, 25-year-old James Jesse said, "you have to live with it."
After being homeless downtown for three to four years, Jesse moved into a room at the Poverello House two weeks ago and said the city and other organizations are doing a good job with homeless outreach.
"But we're like vultures basically," he said. "You take us away and we'll come back."
"Homelessness and its solution is really a collaborative effort -- it takes all of us," Eley said. "It doesn't just take agencies, it takes ordinary citizens and cities and counties and all of us to impact positively."
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