Helping the homeless during the pandemic: government steps in while non-profits suffer

Local News

FRESNO, California (KGPE) – Help for the homeless of Fresno County during the COVID-19 pandemic is coming to fruition after the Board of Supervisors and Fresno City Councilmember jointly announced new facilities.

The elected representatives say hand wash centers are now being made available. Dozens of stations have already been placed near the Poverello House and will also be placed in some parks and near the other shelters.

The City of Fresno has also made 300 rooms available to house homeless people, with 200 already filled. The city and county are working to secure between 20 and 30 hotel rooms specifically for testing homeless individuals for COVID-19 if they are showing symptoms.

Officials have also been in communication with local shelters, including the Rescue Mission and Poverello House, about the increase in demand due to the pandemic.

“We are seeing an increase of 300% or higher,” said Poverello House CEO Zach Darrah.

Darrah said the food bags they give out are typically filed with donated food from stores such as Walmart and Target but because of recent shortages the Poverello House is buying the items from places like food banks.

“At this time we are not seeing any disruptions or anything like that but we are having to purchase food that we didn’t have to. So this week alone we have had to purchase $15,000 in dry foods and non-perishable items for emergency bags,” said Darrah.

Next door, hardly anyone has dropped off food donations for the Rescue Mission. Chief Development Officer Keith Stump said the lack of goods paired with the canceled fundraisers causes a serious problem.

“We are in a real need for food specifically,” said Stump. “We are still accepting financial donations. We are in a good place for the next month but as we all know this is likely to impact us long-term. So hopefully we don’t have to see this level of isolation long term but we are going to need to make up the food we lost.”

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