Mayor Ashley Swearengin

Almost every day, I hear from people who are ready to take action to address the challenge of homelessness in our city. The City of Fresno and its partner agencies are working together like never before to address this issue and meaningful progress has been made, but the effort needs public support, and that is where you and Fresno First Steps Home come in.

Fresno First Steps Home provides an opportunity for the entire community to get involved in preventing and ending homelessness in our city. Fresno First Steps Home’s Board of Directors set a goal of raising $1 million in its first five years of existence, and it did. This money, used to fund local nonprofits and public service providers who are working to prevent and end homelessness in our community.

The initiative is critically important to helping us address Fresno’s homelessness challenge. Doing nothing is costing the public an estimated $80 million per year in unpaid medical bills, emergency room visits, public safety calls, and other community services. The good news is that the City of Fresno, County of Fresno, the Fresno Housing Authority, and the Fresno Continuum of Care service providers have been working diligently to reduce the overall chronically homeless population, which as of our last official count in June of 2015 was reduced by nearly 50 percent.

We’ve learned that we can do something about this long-time challenge, and that it is possible to see people get permanently off the streets and live independent lives once again. Most importantly, everyone can help make meaningful changes in our community through supporting Fresno First Steps Home. Here are some things you can do to help:

First, you can donate. We’re asking Fresnans to give a dollar a month to this effort, with a goal of raising at least $1 million a year. You may already give a dollar to a homeless person at a street corner about once a month. Instead of doing that, consider giving your dollar to a comprehensive, community-wide effort where you know the dollars are going to be used to provide services to our homeless population.

Second, you can hand out 2-1-1 cards with the United Way Call Center number printed on them where they can be connected to resources in our community. If you are approached by someone on the street asking for a donation, you can give them these pre-printed cards to help connect them with important services.

Third, you can volunteer to help with the “Point in Time” survey effort that takes place during the last week in January every year.

Finally, you can host a fundraiser. Gather your business associates, friends, and family to help support this cause, and help us reach our goal of $1 million a year. If just 20 percent of the people in Fresno took the “buck a month” challenge, we would easily exceed our $1 million annual goal.

Fresnans are caring people with a generous spirit. Fresno First Steps Home is an ideal way for our residents to be a part of ending and preventing homelessness in our city. Please, join us!