It’s estimated that from 2019 to 2020, Fresno’s homeless population increased by almost 70%. City Manager Tommy Esqueda is certain that number has continued to grow this year.
“We don't have enough housing capacity available to get folks out of the shelters we’ve invested in, and so we have more people on the street,” he said.
During Wednesday’s city council meeting, Esqueda presented a $25 million housing development plan for the next fiscal year.
That includes potential tiny home villages, and the state program, Project HomeKey which funds the purchase and renovation of existing motels for housing units. There are currently four Project HomeKey motels operating near Parkway Drive and Highway 99.
“It’s been the most fiscally responsible and efficient thing to do for the temporary part. There is going to be more cost when we convert them into permanent housing. Some of them will be tear-downs. Others will be complete renovations,” said councilmember Miguel Arias.
It’s estimated that future motel purchases and renovations will cost an average of $70,000 per unit. That’s compared to the cost of building new housing that averages $350,000 to $400,000 per unit.
The motels have provided an average of 325 rooms to serve 450 people. The city is looking to acquire and renovate more motels.
In addition to housing, the Homeless and Housing Initiatives Department is estimating the cost of acquiring mobile showers to service encampments on a rotation. It also plans to purchase portable restrooms to serve downtown encampments by the beginning of July.
Part of the development plan also includes the deployment of a new outreach group, HART: Homeless Assistance Response Team.
“They’re going to lead our city’s homeless outreach and engagement efforts. We’re going to dispatch them through the 311 center,” said Esqueda.
HART would replace the Fresno police-staffed Homeless Task Force, also by the new budget year, July 1st.