After asking why he shouldn’t get “free housing,” Supervisor Brandau was the sole vote against an updated local Homelessness Action Plan that incorporates $6.7 million in state funding.

Why it matters?

During an affordable housing crisis that has seen the number of homeless in Fresno County increase by 97%, voting against millions in state funding for the county could have dire consequences for the thousands of unsheltered residents in Fresno County.

Documented by Rachel Youdelman

What happened: The Fresno County Board of Supervisors voted 4-1 to approve an updated local Homelessness Action Plan at its Nov. 29, 2022 meeting. While several supervisors expressed general frustration with a perceived lack of progress in addressing homelessness, Brandau asked why he shouldn’t get “free housing” and was the sole vote against the plan.

“At the end of the day this is a constant money flow, it’s a housing problem, we’re subsidizing housing for people and then that means well, ‘why shouldn’t I go get some free housing?'” Brandau said. “But I want to know, are we really improving the lives of the people to get them out of the problem that put them there in the first place.”

The plan incorporates $6.7 million from round 4 of state funding for Homeless Housing Assistance and Prevention (HHAP4), 10% of which must be used for services for homeless youth. The total includes $3.8 million for the Fresno-Madera Continuum of Care and $2.9 million for Fresno County. According to Laura Moreno, a program manager for the department of social services, services supported by the funding will include: rural rental assistance, street outreach, mental-health services, shelter beds, homelessness prevention, case management, and exits to permanent housing.

Local housing crisis: During her presentation to the board, Moreno said that since 2018, the number of homeless people in Fresno County has increased by 97% and family homelessness has increased by 192% since 2019. She said that families make up 17% of the homeless population and that HHAP$ funding will focus on families.

She said that emergency shelter capacity has increased by 381 beds, due to the pandemic, as well as prevention capacity because of the Emergency Rental Assistance Program, which will end in 2023.

Among the gaps in providing homeless services, a major problem is the lack of affordable housing. Moreno said that average rent for a two-bedroom apartment in Fresno is $1,650, so even if a DSS client has a rental voucher, landlords will refuse to rent because they can make more money when a renter can pay the market rat

Director of Social Services Sanja Bugay said during the meeting, state funding for addressing homelessness began in 2019 and is still relatively new. She said the primary cause of homelessness is still economic. “People can’t afford their rent,” she said adding that “affordable housing” is not $1,650 a month.

During her presentation to the board, Laura Moreno said that since 2018, the number of homeless people in Fresno County has increased by 97% and family homelessness has increased by 192% since 2019.

Increased code violation fines: The board unanimously approved an initial step to raising fines for code violations to the maximum amount allowed by state law. The ordinance will increase fines for infractions which are violations of county building and safety codes: $130 for the first violation, $700 for the second violation, and $1,300 for the third violation occurring within one year of the first citation. A second level will impose a fine of $2,500 per additional violation within two years of the first violation on property when the owner fails to remove refuse or fails to prohibit unauthorized use of the property. Each day a violation continues, a new and separate fine will accrue.

Next meeting: The next Fresno County Board of Supervisors meeting will be Dec. 13 and will start early at 9 a.m., rather than 9:30 a.m. Pacheco said it was due to the length of the agenda.

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The Fresno Documenters are a group of local residents who are trained and paid to attend and take notes at local public meetings where officials decide how to spend public money and make important decisions...