Homelessness

On this week's Valley Edition: Fresno's homeless and affordable housing crisis has exploded in the wake of the pandemic. We take a closer look at the struggle to find shelter for the unhoused and the city policies in place to offer relief.

 

And a new study from Harvard explores the link between wildfire smoke and COVID deaths last year. Plus, how will the decennial process of redistricting shape politics in the Valley?   

 

And the Fresno Art Museum reopens to the public.

An encampment at Broadway and San Benito in downtown Fresno is dotted with rows of tents. Many are the newly built and more sturdy tent sheds.

Camp manager Dez Martinez unzips a tent belonging to one of the newest residents, Norma Chapa, who has been here for three weeks.

“I have some books for coloring using colored pens, and I have my stuffed animals and this is how I made my room,” Norma, 52, says, showing off what’s inside.

On this week's Valley Edition:  They're essential, but Punjabi truckers say that without COVID-19 information translated into their native language, they're left without some critical details that could protect them on the job.

 Plus, how donations are helping one Fresno homeless encampment survive.

 And local Asian American women share their experiences of discrimination.  Listen to these stories and more in the podcast above. 

 

 

Timothy Jackson is hammering together pallets at the site of his new home, an encampment near a Highway 99 overpass in downtown Fresno.

“Just like a few pallets and you can make anything into a deck,” he says, bending over a wooden structure.

The former tile and granite worker is building a railing to help with mobility for the camp’s elderly members.

“It’s not going to go very far, but they can at least get to the bathroom when they need to,” he says. 

 

On this week's Valley Edition:  Due to federal funding, the pandemic has created an unlikely opportunity for new homeless housing in Fresno. We look at some of the programs in place.

 

Plus, we tell you about a Microsoft pilot program that KVPR is a part of to preserve and expand local news around the country.

    

And arts critic Donald Munro gives us an update on the Tower Theater sale. Listen to these stories and more in the podcast above. 

 


 

Matt Levin, Anna Laven and Sonia De La Rosa

California Governor Gavin Newsom has a plan to use $750 million dollars of federal coronavirus relief funds to purchase motels and other properties that will be converted into housing for those experiencing homelessness. But, there’s a catch. If the properties are not purchased by the end of the year, the money goes back to the federal government.

Laura Tsutsui / Valley Public Radio

On a weekday afternoon, Elvia Baies’ two teenage daughters finish up their school day while her younger children, a 4 and 5-year-old, play on tablets. 

Baies asks them to turn the tablets down and then points out the tight space where they’ve lived for nine months. 

“This is obviously the room that we're sleeping in, our two beds, we have a TV across from the beds,” Baies says. 

 

On the far end of the room, she opens a door. 

“Our bathroom, and our tub, our sink, along with our kitchen.”

Fresno County officials announced the results from January’s homeless point-in-time count Wednesday, including a significant rise in unhoused individuals. 

This year’s annual point-in-time count found 3,251 people experiencing homelessness throughout Fresno County. That’s about a 50 percent increase from 2019, when the number of people counted was 2,131. However, more people than usual were counted in shelters.

Patience Milrod and Amber Crowell

California Gov. Gavin Newsom suspended most evictions in April. But now state lawmakers are debating whether to lift the moratorium, leaving renters who have lost their jobs to the pandemic facing an uncertain future.

On this week’s Valley Edition: How are people in the Valley staying fed during the pandemic? We hear about the growing reliance on food pantries, and also get an update on business from local restaurants.

And despite the pandemic, the 2020 Census is still happening. Community organizations are figuring out new ways to reach the hardest-to-count areas, from online messaging to working with churches. 

Soria for Congress and Costa for Congress

As the race to represent the 16th congressional district heats up between incumbent Jim Costa and fellow democrat Esmeralda Soria, both candidates stopped by the KVPR studio to talk with FM89's Kathleen Schock about the key issues facing the district, and the attention grabbing television ads from the Costa campaign.  

On this week’s Valley Edition: It’s been two and a half months since the mass shooting in a Fresno backyard that killed four members of the Hmong American community. We speak to mental health providers helping family members heal. 

Christina Lopez

 

 

Mike Wallford has been living in East Bakersfield for 60 years. He said the city always tries to dump unwanted facilities in this part of town: a sewage treatment plant, a dog pound, he said, and now a homeless shelter.  

 

“They bring out all the trash out there; we’re tired of taking it. Take it out to Rosedale, to Haggin Oaks,” said Wallford. “They don’t want it. I don’t want it either.” 

Rosedale and Haggin Oaks are more affluent communities where there are no homeless shelters. 

Laura Tsutsui / Valley Public Radio

Even as Fresno County is in the middle of the point-in-time count to assess the scope of homelessness, Fresno City leaders announced a pilot program today that will provide part-time employment and support services to a small group of homeless individuals. 

Speaking outside the Poverello House in Downtown Fresno, Fresno City Council President Miguel Arias said this program is different from past efforts to address homelessness.

Kathleen Schock / Valley Public Radio

Governor Gavin Newsom stopped in Fresno on Wednesday to promote his proposed $1.4 billion plan to tackle homelessness, which includes $11.5 million in emergency grants for Fresno County. 

Speaking at a mental health crisis facility in Southeast Fresno, Newsom said the grants, to be disbursed within the next few weeks, are intended to go toward financial assistance for housing as well as emergency trailers and tents.

Laura Tsutsui / Valley Public Radio

This year is the 80th anniversary of John Steinbeck’s book, “The Grapes of Wrath.” In his novel, Steinbeck profiles the Joad family as they travel from Oklahoma to California, escaping the Dust Bowl, in search of work. Many families made this journey during the Depression era. In some communities, these Dust Bowl refugees were met with threats. But in others, like Weedpatch just south of Bakersfield, they were welcome.

Courtesy of Adrianne Hillman / Salt + Light Works

In most cities, people who live on the streets can find some relief staying for a night or two at a shelter. But in 2018, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development found that Tulare and Kings counties have the highest rate of unsheltered, chronically homeless individuals for counties of their kind in the nation. 

On this week's Valley Edition, we go up in the air for an aerial view of Kern County’s Cymric Oil Field. And on the ground in Tulare County, will a village of tiny homes help solve the homeless crisis? 

You may know McFarland for the Disney movie about an against-the-odds cross country track team winning the state championship. But now the town is in the spotlight for a different reason - two investigative reporters tell us about its “second chance” police department. 

 

Fresno Housing Authority Facebook Page

It’s no secret California is facing a homelessness crisis, with eviction being one way families end up without a home. However, the data on who is evicted and why has been scarce until recently. Ten years ago, sociologist Matthew Desmond began research for his book, “Evicted.” The MacArthur “Genius” Fellow, and Pulitzer Prize winner is helping decipher how eviction is not only a consequence of poverty, but also a cause. He spoke with Valley Public Radio ahead of his visit to Fresno next week, hosted by the Fresno Housing Authority.

KERN COUNTY HOMELESS COLLABORATIVE FACES OF HOMELESSNESS FACEBOOK PAGE

A statewide survey conducted last month by the Public Policy Institute of California found most Californians see homelessness as a top issue for the state, but how counties are choosing to tackle it differs widely. In Kern County, officials are considering jailing homeless people for misdemeanor drug offenses. To go into effect, the proposal needs funding approval from the Bakersfield City Council.

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