Fresno mayor's claim of 50 percent reduction in homelessness raises eyebrows

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While some say that can't be right, one organization that works with the homeless on a daily basis says it is. (KFSN)

The homeless population in Fresno is in question after mayor Ashley Swearengin announced it dropped about 50 percent since 2009 recently.

While some say that can't be right, one organization that works with the homeless on a daily basis says it is.

"The mayor has done an amazing job," Cruz Avila with the Poverello House said. "Along with the county and the city to really address the problems and issues that are taken at hand."

Avila is the executive director of the Poverello House.

He deals with the homeless on a daily basis and says through a collaborative effort with the city and other organizations they're making progress.

"If folks have those questions and folks say things aren't being done, have them call me directly," he said. "I'll talk to them personally, right."

In the past seven years, the city says the homeless number has dropped from more than 3,100 to just over 1,600, a number that's counted every year through what's called a Point-in-Time Survey.

"They're going out there in the late hours of the night, 12 a.m. to 3 a.m., 4 a.m. in the morning," Avila explained.

But people like Mike Rhodes don't believe it.

"They'll say that," homeless advocate Mike Rhodes said. "They're going out there and they're looking at all these places, but they cannot possibly go to all the places where homeless people are at."

Rhodes even recently wrote a book about homelessness. It targets the city's big push back in 2011.

"They destroyed the homeless encampments, homeless people were scattered all over the city. They're more prevalent in all parts of the city now than there ever were before," he said.

He thinks the city's going at it all wrong.

"What you really need to end homelessness is enough money to produce affordable housing so that everybody can have a place to live," Rhodes said.

But organizations like the Poverello House think their collaboration is working and is about to get even better.

By mid-summer, a special outreach team will launch, putting workers in direct contact with the homeless population.

"So those are the things that we need to be celebrating right?" Avila asked. "Versus the negative, nay-sayers, a lot of the folks that think there isn't things being done."

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