Mayor Swearengin launches plan to end homelessness in Fresno

post courtesy of The Fresno Bee’s Andrea Castillo

Between 2009 and 2016, homelessness in Fresno decreased overall by 48 percent. But from last year to this year, it increased by 10 percent, for a count of 1,622 people.

Mayor Ashley Swearengin said many believe the increase in homelessness this year is a result of Proposition 47 keeping low-level criminal offenders out of jails.

Among what’s needed, Swearengin said: more immediate housing for those who are chronically homeless, regular outreach and more funding. Swearengin said the plan will end chronic homelessness for veterans by the end of this year, for the most vulnerable by 2017, and for the less vulnerable by 2018.

Chronic homelessness refers to people who have been on the streets for a year or more and have multiple conditions – behavioral, physical or mental health – that make it difficult to get off the streets.

Around one-third of the chronically homeless in Fresno are “most vulnerable,” meaning they need permanent rental assistance and social services to keep from being homeless. The remaining people, on average, will need housing assistance and support for two years before they become fully independent.

“Our intent is to make sure we’re preventing homelessness in the first place,” Swearengin said.

Point-in-Time survey

Swearengin released the 2016 Point-in-Time homeless count during a news conference at Chukchansi Park downtown. The count takes place each year over three days and tallies the number of visibly homeless people on city streets and in rural areas.

This year, about three-fours of counted homeless people didn’t have shelter. Similar disparities are seen in homeless counts throughout the years, backing up Swearengin’s plan to increase immediate housing. The number of beds for the homeless – shelter, transitional and permanent – increased by 29 percent since 2009, to 1,706.

Chronic homelessness numbers have fluctuated: decreased by half from 2012 to 2013, increased by more than 150 people the next year, down again by almost 250 in 2015, and up again by almost 200 people this year. Overall, chronic homelessness has been cut in half since 2009, on par with the overall decrease.

Rhodes: Count misses many homeless

Mike Rhodes, former editor of the Community Alliance newspaper, recently published a book about homelessness in Fresno, called “Dispatches from the War Zone.” Rhodes said he doesn’t believe homelessness has decreased as much as city leaders claim. He said it’s impossible to get an accurate count using Point-in-Time methodology. Plus, he said, homeless people in Fresno have been forced out to remote areas by city laws targeting camps and become much harder to find.

The trick is in how homeless people are identified, Rhodes said. Those living in their cars, garages or backyards aren’t as visible as those on the street.

“That doesn’t mean the homelessness has gone away,” he said.

Rhodes said some people have certainly been helped by the city’s efforts, but he isn’t convinced chronic homelessness will end in three years. That, he said, would require more affordable housing and enough money to invest in mental health services, addiction and other issues that contribute to homelessness.

“All they can do is create the illusion that they are effectively dealing with homelessness.”

Homelessness goal is ‘functional zero’

Swearengin said the goal is to achieve “functional zero,” which means there will still be homeless people in Fresno but the resources will exist to quickly house them.

Doing nothing about homelessness costs public systems millions each year for services including emergency room visits, ambulances and 911 calls, Swearengin said. Today in Fresno, she said, $14.8 million between all agencies involved is used to address chronic homelessness.


  • Stands for Homeless Engagement Resource Outreach
  • City-funded outreach workers
  • Soon will begin walking the streets wearing bright orange T-shirts

Fresno needs another $1.5 million a year, Swearengin said. That’s including $1 million for around 50 more permanent supportive housing units for people with physical or mental disabilities and $500,000 for rapid rehousing, which helps homeless people quickly find temporary housing on their path to self-sufficiency. She said the permanent housing funding is likely available through federal resources, while the other $500,000 will be raised locally.

“That assumes every service provider that’s contributing today actually continues at the same service level,” Swearengin said. “So, we can’t see any decreases.”

The City Council approved an additional $500,000 from the city’s general fund to pay for a team of outreach workers, who within a few weeks will begin walking the streets wearing bright orange T-shirts that say HERO Team. HERO stands for Homeless Engagement Resource Outreach.

“We know we need repeated contact with folks that are on the streets today to develop the relationship needed, assess their conditions and ultimately match them with resources,” Swearengin said. “We’ve certainly heard an outcry from the public – they want more being done to address homelessness.”

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Fresno First Steps Home provides GAP/MATCH funding to local non-profit organizations that provide direct, low-barrier services to the Homeless population in our community. 

Non-profits seeking funding from Fresno First Steps Home must fall into one of our Funding Priorities and must complete our grant application. You may download the application below. (Check your downloads folder after clicking.)

Once completed, mail to:
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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


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


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


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