Triage for Fresno's Homeless Problem

March 31, 2009 8:57:16 PM PDT
Solving Fresno's homeless problem is entering a new phase. On Wednesday, teams will inspect the infamous tent cities that dot downtown. Construction is happening in downtown, but this is not your normal home. The new dwelling is taking shape in one of Fresno's many tent cities. Amadeo Juarez is building what he hopes will be a small wooden shack. Juarez is homeless just like the dozens he calls his neighbors. A job Juarez says in Spanish is the key to getting a permanent home. That's exactly the input teams will be gathering in April.

City council members approved $700,000 to jump start a "triage" approach meaning teams will go directly into the camps and eventually prescribe a fix. Gregory Barfield works for the City of Fresno. Barfield said on Tuesday's city council meeting, "What we need to do is figure out who is in the encampments. What are some of the barriers to services and gaps to services are. Some of them have income streams and how can we maximize those income streams."

Solving the homeless issue is a very difficult problem. Adding to the complexity is a sign posted in downtown. The Union Pacific Railroad owns the property where the homeless live and they are asking the homeless to be off the property in just eight days. City staff need at least three weeks to find a solution.

People who live near the camps also want quick action. Hester Hensley said, "There are solutions, and like I said the people in the Golden West Side of Fresno have been dealing with this encampment for years. It just didn't come over night."

Juarez says health care is his second priority. He can only dream of sleeping on a real bed until someone discovers how to find all these people homes.

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