Feds call Fresno, Madera ‘a shining example’ in homelessness battle

post courtesy of The Fresno Bee’s Rory Appleton

Federal officials heaped praise this month on Fresno and Madera counties for drastically reducing the number of homeless people in each region, but local groups say the issue is far from resolved.

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Western Region spokesman Ed Cabrera said the two counties saw a 34 percent reduction in total homelessness from 2014 to 2015 and about a 60 percent decrease over the past five years.

“I think Fresno is a shining example of what’s possible when folks work together around proven solutions,” he said. “Clearly, homelessness hasn’t ended. But with the level of progress in these numbers, I think we can learn a lot from how Fresno has gotten to this point.”

The numbers of sheltered, unsheltered and homeless families each fell in the one-year and five-year tallies. The number of homeless veterans also dropped 17 percent since last year and 63 percent since 2011.

Cabrera called special attention to the drops in chronic homelessness, which has fallen 58 percent since 2010 and 26 percent since last year.

Doreen Eley, manager of the assisted housing division for the Fresno Housing Authority, said her agency tabulates the numbers for the federal government. She defined chronic homelessness as “living in a place not meant for human habitation for a year or more, or four times in the last three years, plus having a disability that impacts daily life.”

Although homeless rates are falling, Eley said the federal numbers aren’t perfect. The housing authority counts the number of homeless people in and out of shelters on odd years, but it only tracks those in shelters during even years. Federal officials also don’t count those who lost their homes but are staying with friends or family temporarily as homeless.

However, there’s no doubting Fresno and Madera counties have made tremendous strides.

“The key to success here in Fresno is collaboration,” Eley said. “We’ve stepped up our data usage in the last year with the MAP (Fresno Multi-Agency Access) program, and we’ve learned from other communities.”

The MAP program serves as a unified intake station for all of Fresno’s homeless. It’s housed at the Poverello House in downtown Fresno. Anyone can come in and register.

Registrants’ names, pictures, basic information and needs are entered into one database. From there, the person could be sent to dozens of outreach programs through the city, county, hospitals or various partner organizations, such as the Fresno Rescue Mission or Poverello House.

“It’s about finding the best housing intervention for you,” Eley said. “Some need a lot of services, while others are just down on their luck and need a mainstream housing situation.”

The housing authority owns 118 units and partner organizations have hundreds more available, but Eley said housing is never available as soon as the next day. Many homeless individuals must stay in temporary shelters or on the streets until the program can locate a home.

Housing is determined by need, Eley said. Those with serious physical or mental disabilities or who’ve been on the street for a while are given the highest priority. Housing everyone who registers through MAP isn’t yet feasible, she added.

Brandi Johnson, a spokeswoman for the housing agency, said an increased sensitivity to mental health issues was a big reason for Fresno’s improvement in lowering homeless rates. Fresno County Department of Behavioral Health staff members are present at each of the authority’s three complexes.

“First, we provide people housing – get them stable,” she said. “Then we can get them substance abuse or mental health counseling. As a community, we’ve finally realized that.”

Rev. Larry Arce is the CEO of the Fresno Rescue Mission, a faith-based organization created in 1949 that temporarily houses 80 to 150 people per night.
He agreed that an increase in city, county and nonprofit programs have reduced the amount of people looking for housing help, but he believes a large number of people – many of the “visible” homeless – are taking advantage of these expanded programs.

“Vagrancy is a problem,” he said. “Some people are temporarily homeless, but some have been homeless for a decade. They’re very capable of working or living alone, but they want to take advantage.”

The Fresno Rescue Mission runs a program for helping the homeless find work and lodging. It involves faith-based courses, but Arce said no one is required to follow any specific religion to join. They do, however, have to be sober.

“We usually send them to detox, then they come back here,” he said. “A lot of them leave after a week or so of being drug free. But they just end up back here again.”

Arce said some people feel entitled and are not willing to follow even the most basic program rules.

He cautioned people to “think twice” before giving money to anyone on the street.

“I saw a man on Clinton and Marks in a motorized wheelchair. He had a sign saying he was diabetic and needed help. He came into the doughnut shop I was in and popped right out of the wheelchair. He said he was actually doing fine. I asked how much he makes, and he told me $800 to $1,000 a day.”

However, Arce was proud of the community’s progress. He also praised Fresno agencies and nonprofits for their collaboration. Most homeless people, he added, are looking for some help in a time of need.

“The temporarily homeless get on track right away,” he said. “You have to want to fix things. We don’t give up on people, but they’ve got to meet us halfway.”

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Tom Richards

Tom Richards

Chair, Fresno First Steps Home
Chair, 10-Year Plan to End Homelessness
Chief Executive Officer, The Penstar Group

Tom Richards graduated from the University of California, Santa Barbara, after completing active duty 1 military service.  During and after college, he was employed as a staff accountant and senior auditor by a major Santa Barbara CPA firm.  He left to work for a locally based real estate firm.  During that tenure, he formed joint venture and limited partnership investments in multi-residential and condominium developments.

Tom moved to Fresno, initially developing with others and building single-family subdivisions, office buildings and shopping centers. He subsequently formed The Penstar Group.  Its real estate activities continue today and have included the development and construction of single-family subdivisions, condominiums, multi-family rental housing, senior rental housing, general and medical office buildings, skilled nursing facilities, industrial warehouse and manufacturing buildings and shopping centers.  Penstar’s geographic operations have extended from the Inland Empire east of Los Angeles through Sacramento and in the Seattle, Washington area.

In recent years, Penstar’s development focus has been divided between downtown Fresno’s revitalization and redevelopment efforts, apartments, and a major master planned community in southeast Fresno.  In his capacity as managing partner of M.L. Street Properties, Richards with Penstar directed the development, construction and now management of Fresno’s first new privately owned high-rise Class A office building in over 30 years, the TOWER at Convention Center Court.  Other completed downtown projects include administrative and medical office buildings for Fresno’s Regional Community Medical Center and Terry’s House. Current developments include the TOWER 2 at Convention Center Court, the renovation of the historic Bank of Italy building, development of senior’s housing with Ed Kashian at Campus Pointe on the CSU Fresno Campus, and three apartment projects in Fresno. In southeast Fresno, with Ed Kashian, Richards is co-managing member of Fancher Creek, a 485-acre master planned community including a Regional Shopping Center, Village Center, 74 acre Business Park, 800 single-family homes, and recreational and civic amenities.

Tom is a licensed general contractor and real estate broker.  He has been active in civic services, among which have been the Chancellor’s Advisory Council at UCSB, the Business Advisory Council for Fresno’s Public Television and the Building Industry Association.  He is a past Director of the 21st District Agricultural Association, The Big Fresno Fair and a past Chair of Fresno Unified School District’s Measure K Oversight Committee. He also chaired the City and County of Fresno’s 10 Year Plan to End Chronic Homelessness. He serves as Chair of the Board for Premier Valley Bank, Director of the Fresno County Workforce Development Board, Vice Chair of the Fresno Chaffee Zoo Board, Chair of Fresno First Steps Home, Chair of Fresno’s Property-based Business Improvement District and Vice Chair of the CA High-Speed Rail Authority.

Kurt Madden

Kurt Madden

Chief Technology Officer, Fresno Unified School District

Kurt Madden is the Chief Technology Officer for Fresno Unified School District, the fourth largest district in California.  He leads the Information Technology department, which is responsible for the strategy, development and implementation of business and educational technology for the district of 74,000 students and 8,000 teachers, administrators and staff.

Prior to his current position, Kurt was the CEO of One by One Leadership, a local community development organization. Before One by One he held several leadership positions including Corporate VP for a Fortune 1000 technology firm and President and Founder of two local technology companies. He is the author of Synergetic Follower: Changing Our World without Being the Leader, published in 2010 and speaks on followership.

Kurt has been an adjunct professor for the Information Systems Department at the Craig School of Business at Fresno State University since 1994.

Kurt is the Board Chair for the Fresno Business Council and Co-Chair of the Microsoft K-12 Advisory Council. He is also a Board member of the ValleyPBS Board, the Fresno First Steps Home Board, Fresno State Alumni Association Board and the Fresno County Economic Development Corporation Board. He attended Fresno Unified schools, graduated from Fresno State University, has been married to his wife, Katy, for 39 years and has three kids he loves who are now young adults.

Nancy Hollingsworth

Nancy Hollingsworth

President & Chief Executive Officer, Saint Agnes Medical Center

Nancy Hollingsworth, RN, was appointed to the Board as President and CEO, February 2011. Nancy enjoys a long history at Saint Agnes, beginning as an Oncology staff nurse (1982-1984), and as Manager of Patient Resources (1985-1998). She returned to Saint Agnes in August 2007 as Chief Nursing Officer (CNO) and later promoted to Chief Operating Officer (COO) in January 2010. During her time away from the hospital, Nancy worked as a Senior Manager of Strategy and Operations for Deloitte Consulting in Cincinnati, Ohio. Nancy received her BSN from CSU Fresno, and her MSN and MBA from Vanderbilt University.

Mathew Grundy

Mathew Grundy

Secretary/Treasurer, Fresno First Steps Home

Executive Director, Habitat for Humanity
Fresno County

Matthew Sterling Grundy is a servant-leader who truly believes that all of his accomplishments have come by the loving grace of Jesus Christ. Matthew has overcome adversity having made it out of poverty. Matthew went from being homeless to attending one of the world’s most prestigious universities, partnering a real estate development company, leading a national tutoring organization, co-founding a non-profit youth workforce development program, and currently holds the position of CEO for Habitat for Humanity Fresno County.

Leveraging his prior experience as an Organizational Risk Consultant at Deloitte, Matthew, an entrepreneur at heart, focuses much of his time on building others.  In his first year at Habitat, Matthew’s efforts helped the organization realize a 90% swing in its bottom line. In just 18 months he has helped pioneer four new housing business lines that have led to Habitat increasing its number of families served by 10x. Matthew brings experience, aptitude, and a genuine heart for the city to FFSH.

Matthew, a Southern California Native is happily married to his wonderful wife Jocelyn and is a father of six great children.

Lindsay Callahan

Lindsay Callahan

President and Chief Executive Officer,
United Way of Fresno and Madera Counties

Lindsay Callahan was raised in the Fresno area and attended Clovis schools before receiving her Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science from UC Davis and her Master’s Degree of Public Policy and Administration from Sacramento State. Her time in the Sacramento included a stint in the California State Assembly, including serving as a prestigious  Jesse Marvin Unruh Fellow. Lindsay spent several years at the Foundation Consortium for California’s Children and Youth, managing a state level public private partnership between the foundations and the California Department of Education.

After returning to Fresno in 2004, she started a successful local intermediary organization called the Central Valley Afterschool Foundation that continues to thrive today. Most recently, Lindsay was a consultant for the Fresno County Office of Education in the Visual and Performing Arts Department.

A passionate advocate for children, youth, and families, Lindsay commits her spare time to promoting the Fresno community. She is a past president of the Junior League of Fresno and also sits on the board of directors for several local organizations. She was recently awarded the Adult Volunteer of the Year award from HandsOn Central California and was named one of Fresno’s 40 under 40.

Lindsay’s three children Patrick (12), Keith (10) and Lauren (6) are the joy of her life and she works tirelessly to embarrass them with her singing and dancing skills and silly jokes.

Lee Brand

Lee Brand

Mayor, City of Fresno

Lee Brand is the 25th Mayor of the City of Fresno, sworn into office on January 3, 2017.

He is the former President and co-founder of Westco Equities, Inc., a property management/construction firm which he has owned and operated for the past 29 years.  He is a licensed Real Estate Broker, a licensed General Contractor and a Certified Property Manager (C.P.M.).

Lee was born and raised in Fresno, attended local schools, graduated from Fresno State University and completed his education at USC with a Master’s Degree in Public Administration.

Lee has served as Council President, Chairman of the Redevelopment Agency and as a Commissioner on the Fresno City Planning Commission.  During his eight years representing District 6 on the City Council, Lee has authored and successfully passed over twenty legislative initiatives which regulate fiscal responsibility,

accountability, and transparency, in addition to such initiatives as the Water Conservation Act and the School Liaison Act.

Lee has been married to his wife Trish for 37 years and they have four children and three grandchildren:  Charity, Phillip, Tommy, Emily, Kylie, Elsie and Adelyn.

Ashley Swearengin

Ashley Swearengin

Vice Chair, Fresno First Steps Home

President & Chief Executive Officer
Central Valley Community Foundation

Ashley Swearengin is president and CEO of the Central Valley Community Foundation, a charitable foundation serving the six counties of Central California and providing over $100 m in funding to over 650 community benefit organizations over the last decade.  Prior to joining the Foundation, she served as mayor of Fresno from 2009 through 2016.  As mayor, she implemented substantial changes to improve the delivery of city services, revitalize the downtown and urban core, promote business and job growth, address chronic homelessness, and stabilize the city’s financial position.  Before becoming mayor, Swearengin led a number of economic development initiatives in the Fresno region, including the Central Valley Business Incubator, Fresno State’s Office of Community and Economic Development, and the Regional Jobs Initiative.  She holds MBA and BS degrees from California State University, Fresno.

Maggie Caples Furrow

Maggie Caples Furrow

Director, Fresno First Steps Home

Maggie comes to Fresno First Steps Home with 14 years of experience in Communications supporting high profile corporations, nonprofits, advertising agencies and government funded projects. Her experience includes managing paid and earned advertising and media for clients like the Maryland State Lottery as well as locally based Westlands Water District. She has built and managed project management systems and client tracking databases, developing reporting tools and analytics for Community Food Bank and the International Vaccine Access Center at Johns Hopkins School of Public Health. She is also an accomplished event, social media and project manager. Projects have included website development for The Women’s Industrial Exchange in Baltimore, MD and social media management for HandsOn Central California.

Maggie grew up in Clovis, and graduated from Fresno State in 2003 with a BA in Mass Communications and Journalism. She chose to relocate to Baltimore, MD in 2006 where she completed her Masters in Communications from Notre Dame of Maryland University. In 2013 while completing her Masters, she made the decision that Fresno was her home and where she wanted to live and start her family.

In her free time, Maggie enjoys spending time with family, especially her husband, Brian and their son, Henry. When time allows, she enjoys, hiking, visiting our local National Parks and taking road trips around the west coast with her family.

Step 5

Monitoring & Support

Using the action plan, case managers track the progress of individuals and provide support services as needed.

Step 4

Action Plan

Case managers create an action plan that puts individuals on a path to self- sufficiency. This plan is monitored and evaluated on a regular basis.

Step 3

Housing

Case managers find transitional housing for the individuals at reduced rates, as long as clients show measurable progress in the program for up to 18 months.

Step 2

Assessment

Case managers assess the needs of each individual, including health concerns, family background, criminal history and education. This provides a snapshot for future planning and support.

Step 1

Outreach

Case managers trained in street outreach and serving the homeless population reach out to homeless individuals to begin the process.