Fresno mayor's initiative gives 35 people living along Highway 41 a place to stay

Within the first two weeks of 2021, 3 homeless people were struck and killed on Fresno's freeways.

Vanessa Vasconcelos Image
Friday, February 12, 2021
35 people living along Hwy 41 get place to stay, thanks to Fresno mayor's initiative
Project Off-Ramp, Fresno Mayor Jerry Dyer's initiative to house the homeless, is gaining momentum.

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Fresno Mayor Jerry Dyer's initiative to house the homeless is gaining momentum.

He spent Thursday with his outreach teams along Highway 41 offering services to those in need.

35 people living along the highway now have a roof over their heads thanks to Project Off-Ramp.

Rocky Williams is one of the homeless individuals embracing the opportunity to re-group and re-establish himself.

"Your second choice is staying out here. No one wants to be out here, it's horrible," he said.

The retired electrician of 21 years fell on hard times, meaning he'd spend the last two years without a home and the last eight weeks along Highway 41, where city outreach teams met him.

"I've got my retirement and pension coming from the electrical union. I just need a place to get it all started," he said.

Added Dyer: "What that gentleman said is the very reason why I ran for Mayor of the City of Fresno."

After more than four decades in law enforcement, Mayor Dyer in office means he can continue his mission to house the homeless, starting with the 53 miles of freeway within city limits.

During Thursday's outreach, Mayor Dyer said, "This is the first time I can look back in my career and say I believe we have hope. We have hope to not have homeless in our streets."

Last year, Fresno's freeways saw more than 600 fires and within the first two weeks of 2021, three homeless individuals were struck and killed while on those freeways.

With outreach teams contacting the homeless, CHP patrolling the freeways, and police monitoring adjacent to the thoroughfares, they hope once encampments are cleared they won't reappear.

Dyer said, "We're reclaiming our freeways and we're going to make people proud of driving on 41, 168, 180 and 99."

He said that starts with the city's partnership with the housing authority, community services, including the Poverello House and the state.

Dyer has been working with Senior Counselor to Governor Gavin Newsom, Jason Elliott.

"He said we're going to get to 'yes' for Fresno because I haven't seen another city come forward with as sophisticated of a plan as Fresno has," said Dyer.

Between the City of Fresno and housing authority, there are six motels to relocate those previously living on city streets - willing to accept services.

Several cities have reached out, hoping to emulate projects just like Project Off-Ramp. Mayor Dyer said he hopes to see this type of outreach extend across the state.