This story was originally published on fresnobee.com on November 24, 2021.
People seeking overnight shelter in the city of Fresno cannot expect to walk into any homeless shelter and access a bed that night.
In most cases, people must receive a “referral” from what are known as “access points” and even that does not guarantee a bed.
“Pretty much, every emergency shelter bed in the city of Fresno is full almost every single night,” Zack Darrah, CEO of Poverello House, said during the California State Assemblymembers’ tour of the Village of Hope on Oct. 7.
A point-in-time count conducted in Jan. 2020 showed that homelessness in Fresno increased nearly 70% between Jan. 2019 and Jan. 2020, according to H. Spees, Fresno City Homeless initiatives director. The number of people experiencing “street homelessness” in Fresno is estimated to be around 4,000 now, Spees said.
The number of shelter beds in the city is just over a quarter of that, around 1,200, but the exact number fluctuates often. Through state funds, the city was able to purchase and convert motels into emergency homeless shelters during the pandemic — opening up hundreds more beds.
Despite the significant increase in shelter beds, the need has continued to far outpace what is available.
“We don’t see homelessness and the rate of increase of homelessness declining anytime soon,” Spees told The Bee in August.
For those seeking to be accommodated in one of the shelters, here is how to get a referral.
Are you eligible for shelter?
What constitutes homelessness and determination of eligibility for services depend largely on the organization providing shelter, Rain Chamberlain said. Chamberlain, who was chronically homeless for about half of their life now advocates for homeless resources.
For instance, someone who was evicted and is temporarily staying in a motel may not qualify for shelter, nor might someone who is couch surfing. However, someone who is living in their vehicle or on the streets would, Chamberlain said.
“Most of the services do not kick into place until you are actually homeless,” Chamberlain said.
The Housing and Urban Development department defines “homeless” as an individual or family who does not have a secure, adequate nighttime residence, who will lose their primary residence within 14 days and does not have another residence, and who is fleeing or attempting to flee dangerous or life-threatening conditions that has made the person unable to remain at their primary residence. A detailed definition can be found here.
How do I access shelters in Fresno?
For nearly every shelter in Fresno, you must first receive a “referral” from an access point or triage center — a place that links homeless individuals to available services, based on their specific needs. For example, a veteran with disabilities may be referred to one shelter while a mother with children may be offered different resources.
“We do an assessment with them and determine what their needs are,” said Jody Ketcheside, vice chair of the Fresno Madera Continuum of Care and CEO of Turning Point, of the triage shelters.
“Sometimes, that’s making sure they are enrolled in some type of mainstream benefit; sometimes, that’s something as simple as reconnecting them with family; sometimes, they want substance use treatment … We’re able to get them linked up to whatever they feel like they need to knock out some of those barriers to what’s been keeping them from being housed.”
The access points cannot guarantee immediate housing or shelter, nor can they guarantee hotel vouchers.
Unlike most shelters, the Fresno Mission does not require people to first go through an access point. They accept walk-ins, and people can access shelter at their downtown facility, according to CEO Matthew Dildine.
“We kind of operate outside government strings,” and the Fresno Mission does not receive government funding for their services, Dildine added.
Currently about 70 families are on the waiting list to access shelter at Fresno Mission sites. Dildine said Fresno Mission attempts to find other arrangements for people while they are on the waitlist, but COVID-19 has limited the amount of overflow shelter they can provide.
If you are experiencing domestic violence, you can also call the Marjaree Mason Center 24-hour-crisis line at 559-233-4357 for resources.
Where are the access points located?
Here are where the access points are located in the city of Fresno:
- MAP Point at Poverello House is located at 412 F St. and is open Monday-Friday from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. 559-512-6777 Ext. 1.
- Naomi’s House at Poverello House is located at 412 F St. and is open 24/7.559-443-1531.
- Golden State Triage Center, located at 1415 W Olive Ave, is open Monday-Friday from 8 a.m.-3 p.m. 559-442-8075.
- The Welcome Center, located at 2904 E Belgravia Ave., is open Monday-Friday from 9 a.m.-2 p.m. 559-334-6402.
Additional access points in Fresno and Madera County can be found at fresnomaderahomeless.org.
The Fresno Mission also has 24-hour emergency services at (559) 444-0451 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Walk-ins are also welcomed at 315 G Street, Fresno.
The Marjaree Mason Center runs the Domestic Violence Coordinated Entry System and serves as an access site for those experiencing domestic violence. . The MMC also provides confidential safe housing if you have no where to go to escape domestic violence. Their 24-hour-crisis line can be reached at 559-233-4357.
Do shelters in Fresno accept pets?
Nearly all shelters in Fresno accept pets.
The Poverello House and the Project Homekey shelters accept pets.
The Fresno Mission said they accept pets at their downtown shelter on a case-by-case basis, but not at the Rescue the Children women and children facility.
What questions do you have?
This guide is a work in progress. If you are homeless and have additional questions about resources or tips, please fill out the form below or call/text reporter Cassandra Garibay at 559-441-6004.
For a guide on how to access additional resources, read here.