A coalition of Fresno religious groups gathered this week for a vigil and community meeting about substandard housing and voting.
The two go hand-in-hand this year.
The city’s long-simmering housing issue was catapulted into the limelight when tenants of an apartment complex had no heat or hot water in winter. The Fresno Bee investigated substandard housing in a special report in May. “Living in Misery” found that many of the city’s poorest and most vulnerable residents live in unhealthy and unsafe conditions.
It’s something the mayoral candidates can’t ignore. And Fresno’s social activists won’t let them forget about it.
More than 50 people attended Faith in Community’s vigil Monday evening on a vacant Olive Avenue lot, near Angus Street, where tenants in some of the surrounding apartments are plagued with cockroach infestations, mold, leaky roofs and more.
“On the eve of the primary election, we wanted to come together as a final encouragement to our communities…to engage and continue fighting for a better city,” said Andy Levine, the organization’s executive director.
The event was part of the #Vision4Fresno campaign to bring thousands of new voices into the city’s public decision making process. Volunteers knocked on about 200 doors in the neighborhood over the weekend to remind residents – where candidates rarely campaign but residents need the most help – to vote and get involved, Levine said. At the same time, volunteers talked to people about housing conditions. The effort culminated in the Monday vigil.
“Substandard housing has been on the top of the radar for all the candidates,” Levine said. “We’re hopeful whoever our next mayor is will take that seriously.”