FRESNO, Calif. (KGPE) – The City of Fresno is hosting the first Food Vendor Association meeting on Friday at 10:00 a.m. at the Mosqueda Community Center. The group formed in an effort to aid and protect street merchants after the death of Lorenzo Perez, who was gunned down in mid March while doing his job.

City Council President Luis Chavez said the goal is to bring these workers “out of the shadows”, pointing that many of them are hesitant to file for permits due to language barriers or government distrust.

“We’re gonna bring the City of Fresno’s Economic Development Department. It’s gonna help them with how to get a business license, how to get their registration and paperwork in order,” he said.

The Fresno County Department of Public Health will also assist them in the permit process. Spanish-speaking representatives will be on site.

Chavez said they also want to hear from street vendors about ways to ensure their safety.

“One idea is a panic button. It would essentially alert folks, “Hey something is happening here, I’m either getting robbed, or somebody is trying to hurt me.” But then also installing some cameras along their carts.”

The District 5 leader said the City is allocating $100,000 for these efforts, pending approval in the budget next month. The funds are part of a larger project to invest in a food vendor one-stop shop.

Fresno is spending close to a million dollars to revitalize a building on “H” Street that will give vendors access to a certified industrial kitchen, which is one of the requirements for a public health certificate.

Chavez said this is a 360 approach to how the workers have been treated in the past.

“The City of Fresno would show up with code enforcement and essentially confiscate a lot of their merchandise, their food products, because they didn’t have their business license, or a permit, or permission to be on the corner.”

Chavez said about 125 vendors have showed interest in the association thus far, though Friday’s meeting will sit a smaller group of about 20 people to adhere to Covid-19 prevention guidelines. The City will host future workshops over the next couple of weeks to accommodate more association members.

To register for Friday’s event, or for more information on future meetings, vendors may call 559-621-7854.

The Mosqueda Community Center is located at 4670 E Butler Ave.