Hanford may turn downtown building into homeless service center

Hanford city leaders say they can't solve their homeless problem completely, but they aim to improve it with a new homeless service center, something they don't currently have.

The city hasn't acquired the East 6th Street property yet, but officials say it's an ideal location for a center.

It's properly zoned, there aren't any homes in the immediate area, and it borders the railroad tracks, a frequently used transportation corridor for many of Hanford's homeless.

Hanford Police Chief Parker Sever says the center would serve as a one-stop shop, offering a range of resources.

"This is really going to be for the person that wants to get off the street," Sever said. "This is going to be 'Hey, I'm down on my luck. I need housing, what can you guys do for housing?' 'I need mental health services what can you do?' We'll provide laundry services as well. What it won't be is a homeless shelter."

In the coming weeks, staff will give a presentation to councilmembers about the growing homeless problem and some strategies to address it, including the service center.

It hasn't been determined yet who would operate the center on a day-to-day basis if councilmembers approve the building purchase.

"We are in the business of solving problems and this problem is greater than the city of Hanford," said Hanford City Manager Darrel Pyle. "So short of building a dome, we know that we are going to continue to see an influx in population and our ability to help is limited to helping those who are seeking help."

La Fiesta Mexican Restaurant has experienced some of the negative side effects associated with the growing homeless population.

Koi fish and kegs of beer have been stolen, their fountain has been used as a bathtub, and customers have been harassed.

Restaurant manager Mayra Lopez is all for solutions, but the proposed site of the service center is just a block away, and she thinks that will only make matters worse.

"Downtown Hanford was supposed to be a vibrant, (lively part of the) city and we're trying to still hang onto that hope," she said. "Hopefully the city of Hanford will do something, but this might be somewhere where I believe it might just take us back a little bit."

Other area businesses agree, and plan to express their opinions before the deal is complete.
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