Barbara Poppe came to Fresno at the invitation of Valley Congressman Jim Costa and Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin.
As the Executive Director of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness ... her job is to oversee the federal response to homelessness across the country.
Tuesday morning, she got a bird's eye view of the extent of Fresno's problem. "These are some pretty horrific places that Greg was good enough to show me today. I mean they were pretty horrific circumstances."
Despite what she saw ... Poppe believes Fresno is on the right track in seeking housing for the homeless first ... just last week Fresno's Housing Authority announced three new projects in the works to house the homeless and the homeless mentally ill. But Poppe says after housing ... the homeless need healthcare. "Are your healthcare providers really aligned to provide the healthcare services that are necessary for folks to go back to work ... they've gotta have the healthcare issues resolved."
Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin is quick to point out that the city is only pointing the way for the homeless, not providing handouts. "The reality is that we're working people towards independence. It's not a free ride for all of their lives. It's helping them get transitional housing and moving them towards independence. As long as they're continuing to move toward independence there's support. If they're not participating in the program then the help is not there for them."
Swearengin and Poppe have pledged to do their part in ending chronic homelessness. But they say they need the public's help. "It's very expensive for your community to continue to have homeless people on the streets. Because it creates public safety and public health issues ... but it's also a quality of life issue. Do you want your children being raised in communities where this is the expectation that you will have homeless people among you."