What's at stake?
Fresno County Supervisors will likely reallocate $1 million in federal relief funds after a contractor wasn't able to relocate transitional housing trailers to sites that met zoning requirements.
Correction: This article has been corrected with information about the current use and location of trailers by Fresno County. The previous version of this story relied on information gathered in February.
Update: The Fresno County Supervisors voted unanimously to remodel Poverello House’s kitchen using $1 million in federal relief money on Tuesday. The item was pulled for discussion by a member of the public, during which County Administrative Officer Paul Nerland said the county will bring forth a plan for 20 trailers at a future county meeting.
The Fresno County Board of Supervisors will vote Tuesday on whether to use $1 million of federal pandemic relief funds to upgrade the Poverello House’s commercial kitchen, which provides daily meals to people experiencing homelessness.
Previously, the supervisors allocated that same $1 million to repurpose 20 trailers into long-term housing. Gov. Gavin Newsom originally gave to the City of Fresno the trailers in order to provide temporary housing to families experiencing homelessness. Fresno city officials, shortly after receving the trailers gave them to Fresno County — which is responsible for administering homelessness services in the county.
However, the vote on Tuesday would reallocate that sum to the Poverello House’s kitchen remodeling. The original plan to repurpose the trailers into long-term housing would have awarded $1 million in ARPA funds to RH Community Builders, which would pay for connecting the trailers to utilities as well as managing and operating them, according to a county staff report.
However, the RH Community Builders notified county staff in February that it couldn’t “secure a location for the travel trailers that would obtain the City of Fresno’s support,” according to the staff report.
While RH Community Builders proposed three possible sites to put the trailers, city staff told Fresnoland that those proposals didn’t meet city zoning requirements.
The federal relief money comes from the $194 million that Fresno County received from the federal American Rescue Plan (ARPA) program, which distributed billions in pandemic relief money to local governments across the United States.
ARPA dollars instead going toward remodeling Poverello House’s kitchen would increase how many meals it provides to unhoused people, according to the county staff report, although the county staff report did not mention a range of how many. Since March, the trailers have been used for flood evacuees at the Fresno Fairgounds or for emergency housing and shelter at local homelessness organizations, said county spokesperson Sonja Dosti.
“Spending money to expand the Poverello House’s ability to provide meals for the homeless is a good use of funds, but this is evidence that the county does not have an interest in building permanent affordable housing, and relies on the city to do so,” said Fresno city councilmember Miguel Arias, in an interview with Fresnoland.
Tuesday’s vote is a part of the supervisors’ meeting consent agenda, which means the item will not be discussed publicly — unless a supervisor or member of the public pulls the item for discussion. Typically, items on a public meeting consent agenda are not pulled for discussion and are approved en masse with a single vote.
In the past, Fresno County Supervisors have approved grants or allocated funds to organizations through consent agenda votes without public discussion. One recent example includes a January approval — again without public discussion — for the Fresno Sheriff’s Department to purchase a $450,000 vehicle for the team of deputies conducting homelessness sweeps.