Moving boxes littered the front lawn of Fresno City Hall. Each box was meant to represent 10 community members that become homeless in Fresno annually. Credit: Cassandra Garibay / Fresnoland/The Fresno Bee

Dozens of moving boxes littered the front lawn of Fresno City Hall as 20 to 30 people stood, silent, mouths duct-taped, holding signs that read, “Here to Stay Report Now” and “Rescind the Abatement Ordinance.”

The demonstration on Wednesday morning, hosted by the Fresno Housing For All Coalition, was to protest Mayor Jerry Dyer’s “closed-door” meeting with select community organizations about his One Fresno Housing Plan, of which very little is known.

Housing advocates are instead calling for the city to act on the recommendations of the Here to Stay report, which were compiled from months of community input and a public comment period to avoid displacement of residents in Fresno.

“We are doing a silent protest to kind of symbolize the fact that we are being silenced, that tenants are being silenced, that community members, community input is being silenced,” said Harman Singh, an emergency rental assistance program leader with the Jakara Movement.

“We’ve already compiled so much data, so much research,” he added. “If you read the Here to Stay report now, it has the solutions that the city is looking for.”

Alexandra Alvarado, a community organizer with Faith in the Valley, said she feels the One Fresno Housing plan is an attempt to push aside community input. Alvarado said she was invited to the Zoom meeting with the mayor, but as soon as she began showing the ongoing protest, she was removed from the Zoom call and was unable to log back in.

“The people out here today have been fighting probably for generations,” Alvarado said of the protesters. “They just want to live in dignity, in a thriving community and have a say in what happens in their lives. They want to be able to afford to live in a home.”

Dez Martinez, an advocate for the unhoused and founder of We Are Not Invisible, said she has not been invited to any meetings regarding the One Fresno Housing Plan.

“It seems like it doesn’t matter what we say,” Martinez said.

The news release for the silent protest stated that “(c)ity leaders are trying to undermine the fair, equitable and inclusive community process by dismissing the report.”

The protest was only the latest show of residents’ mounting pressure on city officials to address Fresno’s housing crisis, namely through policy recommendations from the Here to Stay report.

Each week for the past several months, renters and advocates for housing and the unhoused have spoken during public comment at the council meetings. In December, nearly 150 showed up and called in to the Fresno City Council meeting, asking the council to use American Rescue Plan Act money to address housing needs.

Faith in the Valley and a coalition of other housing advocates have also held several rallies about a range of housing needs outside of city hall.

Wednesday’s protest ended with protesters chanting “What do we want? Housing! When do we want it? Now!”

Why is the city waiting on the Here to Stay report?

While anti-displacement policy recommendations – which were narrowed down to 10 recommendations by the Anti-Displacement Task Force in December – were initially supposed to come before the City Council in January or February, the workshop was pushed to sometime in April.

The Here to Stay report was completed with 46 policy recommendations in October 2021, after months of community engagement and a public comment period on the draft report. In late December, the city’s anti-displacement task force voted to recommend 10 of the 46 policies to the Fresno City Council, with the hopes that they would adopt all 100 and look into the remaining 36 policies.

The recommendations were set to be heard in January, according to the City Council agenda, however, they were pushed back and are now set to be heard sometime in April, to align with the One Fresno Housing Plan.

In response to Wednesday’s protests, Deputy Mayor Matthew Grundy said the “initiation and creation” of the One Fresno Housing Plan is underway and will be “discussed at length publicly” during a late April City Council meeting.

“Mayor Dyer is equally frustrated with the lack of affordable housing in our city, and its impact on our residents every day,” Grundy wrote in a statement to The Bee. “His belief that everyone deserves a decent, safe and affordable place to call home is why our administration is working diligently to address our city’s housing and homeless challenges.”

Dyer’s office told The Bee on March 16 that the mayor will not be making any comments regarding housing policy recommendations from the Here to Stay report until the One Fresno Housing Plan is announced.

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Cassandra is a housing and engagement reporter with Fresnoland.