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Here’s how state money is helping the homeless in Fresno

City cleans up large homeless encampment near Poverello House

Homeless people load up what they can carry during a clean up of the streets near the Poverello House. Fresno police say this is done daily as a result of the new no-camping ordinance.
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Homeless people load up what they can carry during a clean up of the streets near the Poverello House. Fresno police say this is done daily as a result of the new no-camping ordinance.

For the first time in years, multiple new homeless shelters are opening in Fresno — thanks to state money.

The Fresno Economic Opportunities Commission, Turning Point of Central California, Mental Health Systems and the Poverello House will open new or previously shuttered shelters and provide new housing options. The organizations will provide youth shelters and housing, a women’s shelter and three other 24/7, come-as-you-are, emergency shelters that connect people experiencing homelessness to other services.

The shelters are made possible through California’s Homeless Emergency Aid Program (HEAP) and California Emergency Solutions and Housing (CESH) program. Fresno received about $13 million in funding, with about $3 million going to the city of Fresno and over $9 million going to the Fresno Madera Continuum of Care and administered by Fresno County.

Additional services geared toward the homeless population are set to be approved this month both at the city and county levels.

Many of the new shelters are set to open this month or by mid August.

The approach to providing the shelter and other services is different than what’s been done in the past. Rather than building or providing one large warehouse-type shelter where people sleep for the night, the new “triage centers” serve as 24/7 emergency shelters where people can stay all day with one pet, store their belongings, have three meals a day and access other services.

“A triage shelter is more about assessing a person’s needs and making sure they’re accessing services while they stay at your shelter and then transition them onto a safe exit,” said Jody Ketcheside, the deputy regional director of Turning Point of Central California, which will operate two triage centers.

Fresno Mayor Lee Brand said opening up smaller shelters is a more compassionate strategy to serve the homeless.

“The city of Fresno is implementing a comprehensive, compassionate solution to Fresno’s homelessness crisis by creating smaller low-barrier shelters strategically located in our community rather than warehousing individuals in one huge shelter with few exits to housing,” he said in a statement emailed to The Bee.

Shelter locations

  • Hacienda campus

Mental Health Services will operate a 50-bed triage center at the former Hacienda Hotel near Clinton Avenue and Highway 99 which has been remodeled. The operation will be open 24/7 and is low-barrier, meaning it’s a come-as-you-are shelter with minimal requirements to stay. A homeless person or family can stay at the Hacienda for a maximum of 90 days, but the goal is to come up with a long-term housing plan before the 90 days is up.

  • Naomi’s House

The women’s shelter at the Poverello House has new state funding. Naomi’s House is the only shelter exclusively for single homeless women in Fresno. (CORRECTION: The original version of this story incorrectly reported that Naomi’s House had been closed.)

  • Belgravia

Turning Point of Central California will operate a 30-bed emergency triage center on East Belgravia Avenue in southeast Fresno. The maximum stay is 90 days, and the shelter will provide a locker to store belongings and allow one pet per guest. It’s slated to open this month.

  • Golden State

Turning Point will operate another 37-bed shelter off of Golden State that will operate the same way as the other triage emergency shelters. It’s slated to open in mid August.

  • Fresno EOC bridge housing

Fresno EOC already operates an emergency shelter for youth through its Sanctuary program.

The new state money through the city will fund an additional four beds for youth ages 18-24.

An additional contract through the county scheduled for a vote this month would provide bridge housing, or multiple month apartment stays, for eight youth and four families, until long term options are found, said Misty Gattie-Blanco, program manager for Fresno EOC. The bridge housing units will be in apartments Fresno EOC already has in an existing complex.

Gattie-Blanco said estimated numbers for homeless youth can be misleading, and it’s crucial to have services tailored for young people experiencing homelessness.

“Youth are pretty resilient and know how to hustle. They can usually find someone to let them to sleep on their couch,” she said. “Although these are young adults, you have to ask, ‘is it appropriate for a young adult, barely out on the street, to stay in a bedroom with someone who has been on the street for 12 years?’”

More funding on the way

The current HEAP funding helps provide homeless services through 2021, but Gov. Gavin Newsom’s newly-approved budget provides more homeless funding for large California cities.

“This will allow a longer period of time as well as building up additional complimentary services that will get people off the street and into housing,” said Laura Moreno, a program manager with Fresno County’s Department of Social Services.

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Brianna Calix covers Fresno’s city government for The Bee, where she works to hold public officials accountable, analyze city policy and inform readers how city hall decisions might affect their lives. She previously worked for The Bee’s sister paper, the Merced Sun-Star.
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