City of Fresno moves to build its own 200-bed homeless shelter

Friday, September 21, 2018
City of Fresno moves to build its own homeless shelter
EMBED <>More Videos

The Fresno City Council approved moving forward with plans to build a 200-bed homeless shelter.

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- The City of Fresno appears ready to build a homeless shelter. On Thursday, the City Council approved moving forward with plans to build a 200-bed shelter.

The action comes as a result of a federal court ruling that said ordinances against people sleeping on the streets are against the law unless there is a place to put them. Fresno passed its controversial ban on homeless encampments in August 2017.

The homeless shelter will be built as the number of homeless on Fresno's streets is climbing. After years of decline, the latest count puts the number of those on the streets at nearly 2,000.

To try and get them off the streets, the Fresno passed the camping ordinance, threatening to arrest anyone who slept on the streets. But a Federal Court ruling over a similar ordinance in Boise, Idaho says it is not legal to arrest someone if they have no place to stay.

City Council Member Steve Brandau added wording making that part of Fresno's law, "As long as we have beds, the no camping ordinance can be enforced. If we don't have any beds, then it can not be enforced."

Currently, there are just 300 shelter beds in the City of Fresno. That is not enough to cover all homeless people.

Furthermore, less than one hundred of those beds are considered "low barrier." Meaning, there are fewer restrictions on who can be let in. Many of Fresno's current shelters require patrons to attend religious ceremonies or ban pets.

The move to amend the no camping ordinance quickly changed when Councilmember Luis Chavez proposed another change, asking the City Manager to get started on finding a way to build a 200-bed shelter in Fresno, using $1 million in housing funds to get it started.

Brandau endorsed the move, "I do believe we need a low barrier shelter in the City of Fresno that will take anybody and their dog immediately, that's very important. Inside that shelter would be the beginning of wraparound services."

The City Council heard from Fresno Police and Central California Legal Services that the additional space was badly needed and voted to support the plan.

The next step will be for the city to work with the other homeless providers to figure out where to build the shelter and who will run it.

State and Federal homeless funds are expected to cover most of the costs.