Fresno’s director of Housing and Homelessness Services, H Spees, retired Friday after four years of working for the city.
Spees said in an email obtained by Fresnoland that he is taking a four-month sabbatical and will “re-engage.” However, it is unclear in what capacity.
“Knowing that the challenge of homelessness in our community has not been taken off my heart,” Spees wrote, “I know that I will be working alongside many of you again in the future.”
Mayor Jerry Dyer released a statement on Friday, saying that he and Spees have been friends for more than three decades and that Spees was the first person he asked to serve in his administration.
“I knew H had the heart and compassion to lead our homeless efforts. H was the driving force behind Project Off Ramp and the creation of HART,” Dyer said in a written statement. “ I am grateful for his dedication and the momentum he has left us with.”
Spees, who ran for mayor in 2016, began working for the city in 2017 under former Mayor Lee Brand as the director of Strategic Initiatives. He became the Housing and Homelessness Services director in 2021 after Dyer took office.
At the April 28 City Council meeting, City Manager Georgeanne White announced Spees’ retirement – a day after Dyer’s administration announced its One Fresno Housing Plan which includes more than 20 policy recommendations regarding Fresno’s homeless population.
Several people who commented on the One Fresno Housing Plan on April 27 criticized Spees directly. However, White defended him in her announcement of his retirement.
“H is a very compassionate and committed human being to this city … He’s been on the front lines in a very very difficult line of work,” White said at the meeting. “I just wanted to say thank you to him for everything he’s done. He’s certainly set a very good foundation for us to take to the next level.”
During that council meeting, Councilmembers Luis Chavez and Miguel Arias also thanked Spees for his work, which they described as one of the most challenging jobs in the city.
“I just also want to thank H for his work and wish him well on his next adventure,” Chavez said.
Spees’ retirement comes at the same time that City Attorney Doug Sloan announced that he will be leaving his Fresno job for a position in Southern California in June.
Spees and Sloan are the two latest departures from Dyer’s staff which has seen several top administrators leave this year. In January, Dyer’s Chief of Staff Tim Orman and City Manager Thomas Esqueda both left their positions.
Spees could not be reached for comment Friday.