Mayor Ashley Swearengin said a federal report on homelessness shows a significant decline in the number of total homeless in Fresno and Madera counties, indicating that the community’s collaborative approach with partner agencies is producing results.

A recently released U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development report found that the Fresno-Madera County area had a 12.5 percent decrease in total homelessness from January 2011 to January 2012 – the fourth-largest decrease of any area in the country.  Total homelessness fell from 5,135 in the 2011 point-in-time survey to 4,492 in the 2012 survey.

“This report is an encouraging sign that our efforts to address homelessness are working,” Mayor Swearengin said.  “We know we still have a long way to go, but it’s clear that the collaborative approach built around the ‘Housing First’ model is producing results.”

The “Housing First” model, recommended by the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, centers on providing people with housing quickly and then providing the social services necessary to help the individual achieve independence.

The HUD report, “The 2012 Point-in-Time Estimates of Homelessness,” seeks to measure the scope of homelessness over the course of one night in January.  In Fresno, the Fresno Madera Continuum of Care coordinated the street count, which was conducted by a variety of agencies, non-profit organizations and homeless advocates.

In addition to the 12.5 percent decrease in the number of total homeless, the survey found a 37 percent decrease in the number of homeless families. The number of homeless family members dropped from 580 to 366.

Mayor Swearengin said the City of Fresno, the Fresno Housing Authority and other service providers such as the Fresno Madera Continuum of Care, WestCare, Fresno EOC, the Fresno County Department of Behavioral Health, the Veterans Administration, Marjaree Mason Center and Poverello House have taken a number of steps to address homelessness, including:

  • Developing and adopting with the County of Fresno a “Ten-Year Plan to End Chronic Homelessness”;
  • Adding 118 units of new, permanent supportive housing in less than three years through the Housing Authority’s Renaissance projects (Trinity, Santa Clara and Alta Monte);
  • Creating the position of Homeless Prevention and Policy Management at the City of Fresno to provide day-to-day oversight of homelessness programs and provide a single point of contact to internal and external stakeholders;
  • Working with a number of community organizations and partner agencies to align resources to effectively and efficiently address homelessness challenges;
  • Developing the administrative, financial and management information systems necessary to implement a comprehensive “housing first” and “rapid re-housing” program and devoting $4.6 million in federal funding over three years to the implementation of the program;
  • Through the federal “Housing First” and “rapid re-housing” program, assisting almost 4,000 Fresno City and County individuals and families with housing services to prevent or end homelessness;
  • Raising more than $800,000 in private donations through the Fresno First Steps Home program to provide rental assistance and housing support for chronically homeless individuals;
  • Conducting two full point-in-time surveys to get an accurate count of chronically homeless in Fresno in 2009 and 2011 with updates in 2010 and 2012.
  • Planning and implementing a series of cleanups at encampments consistent with procedures authorized in the Kincaid Settlement Agreement and housing more than 250 people from the encampments in permanent housing, including 147 of the most vulnerable in the last year;
  • Conducting site visits and receiving technical assistance from two executive directors of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (from both the Bush and Obama administrations); and
  • With the Fresno Housing Authority and other partner agencies, setting up the Homelessness Registry using a nationally developed “Vulnerability Index” to better track who needs permanent housing as it becomes available, locally known as Project P4 (People, Place, Public, Partnerships).

Mayor Swearengin also said the Fresno Madera Continuum of Care Services Committee will hold a Resource Fair for those on the streets at the Kerr Rug Building (Ventura and G streets) on Thursday, Dec. 20.

Activities scheduled for the event include:

  • Veterans Administration – U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing and HIV screenings;
  • Clinica Sierra Vista – Health screening with their mobile unit’
  • Resources for Independence – U.S. Treasury Department “Go Direct” SSI assistance, e-payments and questions;
  • Central California Legal Services – Assistance with legal issues;
  • Housing Authority- Vulnerability screening for housing.