Homeless population rises in Fresno, Madera counties, but fewer on the streets

Fresno Mayor Jerry Dyer admits homelessness is far from eliminated and says long-term housing will be part of the progress.

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Friday, July 15, 2022
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The Point in Time Count shows the number of people experiencing homelessness increased in the two counties, but more of those people now have shelter.

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- A mixed message tonight on the homeless crisis in Fresno and the state.

The Fresno-Madera Continuum of Care conducted a homeless count in February.

The just-released results show the number of homeless increasing in the two counties, but more of those people now have shelter.

The Point in Time Count revealed 4,216 people were experiencing homelessness.

It's an increase from about 3600 in 2020.

But the numbers also showed that more local homeless people have a roof over their head. About 45% are in either emergency shelters or transitional housing.

"We have been dealing with really the low-hanging fruit, the people that ultimately want services and housing and there's a willingness to take advantage of it if it's the right housing," says Mayor Jerry Dyer.

Dyer admits homelessness is far from eliminated and says long-term housing will be part of the long-term progress.

He also points to Governor Gavin Newsom's CARE Court plan as a possible solution.

The sweeping statewide effort would force court-ordered treatment for homeless individuals with severe mental illness.

"It represents to me the first time that California looked in the mirror and said we need to do something differently," says Matthew Dildine with the Fresno Mission.

He says it's time California takes a different approach.

He's concerned that the problem has become worse in the months since the survey was taken.

He says he witnessed a change at the Fresno Mission when the eviction moratorium was lifted in California in July.

"Immediately started seeing more families that were calling. We started seeing more families that said they are about to lose their housing or be evicted," he says.

The Mission is among the shelters in Fresno that is getting creative to make sure people don't end up sleeping on the street, but it is stretched to its limit.

"We have families that are sleeping on floors, trailers, all over the place," says Dildine.

There are 100 families on the Mission's waiting list, and Dildine estimates there to be about 500 people who don't have a place to stay.