Local advocate, Desiree Martinez, questioned why trailers aren't being used to provide shelter as the Fresno County Board of Supervisors voted to reallocate $1 million of pandemic relief funds to remodel the Poverello House kitchen instead.

May 9, 2023 — Fresno County Board of Supervisors

Documented by Rachel Youdelman

What happened: At its Tuesday meeting, the Fresno County Board of Supervisors approved an amendment to reallocate $1 million of federal pandemic relief funds for remodeling of the Poverello House commercial kitchen, which provides on- and off-site meals every day to a variety of people in need.

The American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds had originally been allocated for the maintenance and hook up of trailers that the county received from the state to provide temporary shelter for families experiencing homelessness. But funds were re-designated due to delays in finding locations for the trailers and in resolving title problems, according to the staff report.

Before voting unanimously to reallocate the funds, members of the public questioned why the trailers were sitting idle and not being used in spite of a housing shortage and record high homelessness.

“We have a shortage of shelters and housing options and I see this in real-time with families,” said Brandi Nuse-Villegas. “We needed these trailers over these past couple of years to meet the needs of families facing the unimaginable experience of losing their homes.”

Desiree Martinez, local advocate for people experiencing homelessness, said that she heard the trailers would be used to temporarily house flood victims, but there are no flood victims in Fresno County. She said that she believes the trailers could house 125 people, including children, and that there are 5,000 kids listed in the Fresno Unified School District as homeless.

“I’ve been asking for a year what can we do with these trailers that have been sitting on a lot behind a locked fence with nothing to do,” Martinez said. “If we had these trailers I feel like I wouldn’t have had to call begging for a place for the children to go in an emergency upon waiting a shelter bed.”

Supervisor Nathan Magsig said the original plan was to find a location for the trailers, with the city of Fresno providing sewer and water, but every proposed location was rejected by the city.

He added that the county is working on a plan to ensure that the trailers are used for the intended purpose and an item regarding the plan could be back before the board at one of its next two meetings.

“This is a top priority for the county, we want to make sure that those trailers are fully utilized,” Magsig said.

County Administrative Officer Paul Nerland said that they will work with “nonprofit partners” to put the trailers to use and they initially received 28 trailers, now there are 24 that are at the Fresno Fairgrounds. He said three were given to Madera County and used for COVID isolation of the unhoused and one trailer was stolen.

And also: The board voted to direct staff to write a new ordinance about which flags may be flown at county facilities. The item was proposed by Supervisor Steve Brandau and follows objections by area conservatives after a Pride flag was flown in 2021 at Fresno City Hall.

Up next: The Fresno County Board of Supervisors will meet again on May 23.

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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...