Don't You Dare Become Houseless in Fresno


root - Posted on 31 December 1969

Fresno’s Fascist 10-year plan for poor people

by Tony Robles/PNN-National Poverty, Racism and Resistance Report/NPRRR

Mark the year 2018 on your calendar, especially if you are houseless or in danger of becoming houseless in Fresno. The city and county of Fresno has approved a plan to eradicate homelessness in 10 years. Fresno Mayor Alan Autry spoke before the city council, focusing on failed homeless policies. "I have been a miserable failure in terms of the homeless issue in this community. I didn't know it at the time, I felt that we were doing pretty much all that we could… there was a feeling that it would never get better, let's make their (homeless people) inevitable passing a little more comfortable. That is not only wrong but it's immoral". The city council and the board of supervisors unanimously approved the plan.

In an attempt to reverse these failures the city and county of Fresno convened a task force to formulate a plan to eliminate homelessness. The plan includes a policy shift from "maintained/managed" homelessness to a "housing first model" - a model that takes chronically homeless people and gives them decent affordable housing - regardess of their circumstance - in an attempt to stabilize their lives and address their issues. Homeless advocates cite likely opposition from service providers who make money off the backs of the poor - they don't see them supporting a policy that undercuts their funding regardless of its intent.

Also in attendance at the Fresno City Council meeting was Phillip Mangano, Executive Director of the Bush Administration's Interagency Council on Homelessness. He focused on the plan's cost effectiveness. According to Mangano, the yearly cost to care for a homeless person falls in the $35,000 to $150,000 range. He indicates that the community could - by spending between $13,000 and $25,000 - provide the homeless with decent affordable housing.

Mangano also indicated that the government's allocation of funds to deal with the homeless problem was at record levels. He cited the 2009 budget as having 2 billion dollars devoted to the homeless population. He said that Fresno has been receiving increased amounts of money in 3 of the last 4 years.

Homeless people wonder where that money is going. Al Williams is a homeless veteran and member of the task force. "Too much money has come here that is not accounted for. The money is going in somebody's pocket, I guess. I think these social service providers should be held accountable for their spending". Williams sees more homeless people on the streets and the social service providers as entities who benefit from the suffering of homeless people.

Homeless organzations such as the Western Regional Advocacy Project (WRAP) see the government and its policies as the main cause of increased numbers of homeless people. A 2006 study by WRAP found that HUD has spent $0 on new public housing, while 100,000 units have been lost to demolition or other forms of removal. It also cites that federal housing subsidies go to wealthier people. In 2004, 61% of these subsidies went to households earning more than $54,788.

Counting the numbers of homeless people is a challenge. Statistics vary but the national average in most communities appears to be 1-2%. Communities with higher unemployment is closer to 2%. Many advocates are concerned that the numbers of homeless people in Fresno's plan will be grossly underestimated. The Fresno task force is relying on a "Point in time" survey whose numbers are lower - closer to .05%. According to this survey, there would be only 941 chronically homeless people in Fresno. Their plan would be to, therefore, provide 100 units of housing a year for 10 years and the problem of homelessness would disappear.

Pressures from the business community and developers are weighing in as well. They want to "develop" and "revitalize" downtown Fresno. We have heard this before. We will be watching. We have 10 years to see if it develops - unless city leaders change their minds and decide to build and fund a poverty court.

© 2008 Tony Robles

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