The goal of the Renaissance housing development is to provide a stable living environment for chronically homeless people, including those with severe mental illness.
But, to some community activists, the conditions around the facility — built across the street from the Poverello House homeless shelter — include blight and health hazards.
The Renaissance, which is on Santa Clara Street between F and G streets, is operated by the Fresno Housing Authority.
“Once they built it (in 2012), they were going to maintain around the vicinity as far as homeless encamped around the sidewalks. They were going to keep the debris cleaned up, so we don’t have what we have right now, which is disarray,” said Debbie Darden, chairwoman of the Golden Westside Planning Committee.
Letting the Board Know
Last week, members of the GWPC complained to the Fresno Housing Authority about homeless living on the sidewalks surrounding the Renaissance.
Darden and fellow member Bob Mitchell spoke at the authority board meeting, asking them to do something about the problem.
“I see a state of sadness. I don’t believe that any of the individuals who are out here homeless desire to be living in the manner that they have to live. It is a societal issue. Society needs to be about doing something better for its own citizens in Fresno,” Mitchell said in an interview outside the Renaissance.
He is also concerned about a potential Hepatitis A outbreak. This disease has plagued other areas of California, particularly San Diego.
Darden said that many in the community want the area cleaned up, for the sake of others who live there — especially the children.
During the public meeting at the authority’s downtown offices, board member Cary Catalano said that something needs to be done.
“We do care about what goes on in our community. We are not ignoring the challenges around our properties. We never have and we never will,” he said.
The Fresno Housing Authority replied to GV Wire with this statement:
“We see, hear and understand all sides of this concern. The issue of homelessness is complicated, so naturally finding solutions is equally complicated. We will formulate our response in (a) proper format that will outline the collaboration with other community leaders to address this ongoing issue.”
Seeing For Ourselves
GV Wire checked out the situation on a recent chilly morning.
The sidewalks bordering the Renaissance and the Poverello House had tents and debris. One gentleman, upset with the presence of our video cameras, threw fruit. When he grabbed a rock, this reporter decided that discretion was the better part of valor and departed for a spot a block away.
Area residents say the Renaissance represents affordable housing that is out of reach. A young man calling himself Noah D. said he has had trouble finding stable housing after leaving a bad situation in the foster home system. He says trying to get into the Renaissance has its challenges.
“I get the idea. I think it’s cool and it’s supposed to look out for the people. My issue with it is, I have friends who are on the (waiting) list, but have been out here on the streets for months waiting to get in. They keep having to ask them . . . and they won’t do a thing about it,” Noah said.
For Barbara Ann Smith, who camps on the sidewalk, the $750 rent for a studio apartment is beyond her reach.
The Fresno Housing Authority says that the rental price is 30% of adjusted income.
“It’s unfortunate the governing bodies that have a responsibility in the county and in the city have not done sufficient enough to correct the circumstances that we presently see here today,” Mitchell said.
Advice From the Homeless
What do the homeless need?
Noah said compassion helps.
“When you see someone on the sidewalk, you should give them socks, a beanie or food. Not handcuffs and imprisonment,” he said.
Smith’s advice came with a sense of humor.
“Just come and talk to us, see what’s going on. We’re not going to bite you,” she said.