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Volunteers in Fresno Unite to help the Homeless

by Karen Goodman (kalgood [at]
A group of volunteers have come together to work with the homeless to improve the living conditions in the encampments in downtown Fresno. Photo below: Volunteers from the Thursday group pass out water, oranges, bagels to the homeless living near Monterey and E street in downtown Fresno. All photos by Mike Rhodes
Our small group of people, mostly from the Unitarian Universalist Church of Fresno, has been working directly with the homeless for over a year. We go down every Thursday to deliver toilet paper, water and other items as needed or available. We have recently taken on some new elements in this outreach.

Working with Mike Rhodes and the Community Alliance we are beginning to place dumpsters in the homeless encampments. Enough money has been raised from small donations to initially cover this expense. One dumpster was placed recently at H street and San Benito. In an effort to directly involve the people living on the street, we are providing encouragement, along with work gloves, large trash bags and as many rakes, shovels and brooms as we can find.

At the Monterey and E street encampment, the garbage, stretching across the entire street, was cleaned up in early February by the city. It was a disaster. The owner of the property at the north end of the alley has evicted the people. That area became especially bad in recent weeks. We have now placed two dumpsters at this location and hope this will help in the future. In addition, Mike Rhodes has hired two homeless men to help with clean up.

A second effort from the committee is the distribution of condoms. We have been working with the county and have contacted the state to secure an ongoing supply of condoms and lubricant. We are hopeful our efforts might slow the spread of Aids and STD’s and prevent pregnancies in the camps. We have been encouraged by the enthusiasm the homeless population has shown when we distribute the condoms. We also promote the Fresno County Aids clinic by passing out leaflets to all recipients.

In addition, Jenny Martin and Anna Hecker have been working with Westside Rescue and homeless dogs and cats. Westside Rescue provides food, shots and emergency vet care every other Friday in front of the Mission between 5 and 7 PM. Emphasis now is to see that dogs and cats are being neutered and spayed. With this in mind, we are attempting to only give out food on the off weeks and only to those who are willing to spay or neuter their animal.

Finally, Anna Hecker is in the early stages of developing a micro loan program to assist in emergencies.

Many Thanks to the Following…
I want to mention Joe Kalpakoff and Mid Valley Disposal. While our group has raised enough money to initially pay for dumpsters ($185 a month each) we found the cost of extra pick ups impossible. After a meeting with Joe and his associates, Mid Valley has generously agreed to do extra pickups as necessary. They have been most cooperative and helpful.

Thank you to Maria Lopez and other case workers at the Renaissance House. We are learning more about the program from Maria, and will of course continue to work with the street people to register with the Housing Authority and/or begin the process of working with the Mental Health people. Don Negri, a member of our group, is a retired optometrist. Don is providing reading glasses to anyone in need. Working with Maria, he sets up a table in the conference room on Thursdays, to assist the homeless with the glasses and refer those in need of an eye doctor. What generosity.

Lupe Oftedal, owner of the store Bebe, has donated a large number of jeans, along with two big sacks of hygiene products.

Margarita Reyes continues to collect needed items from her friends and family.
Haidie Simonet has been making knitted hats. What a blessing in this cold weather.
The United Christian Church has a source for new underwear and socks, and also hasdonated some hand made knitted scarves. Thank you all.

We may yet experience some freezing weather. We post information about the warming shelter on the porta potties and hand out small flyers as needed.

toilet paper coffee pots, blenders,
blankets, sleeping bags rugs
hygiene and first aide items bath rugs
socks and underwear radio and small TV’s
rakes, shovels and brooms

If you can assist financially to support the portable toilet and dumpster project, contributions (tax-deductible) may be sent to The Eco Village Project of Fresno, c/o Mike Rhodes, 4773 N Arthur, Fresno Ca 93705 or the UU Church of Fresno, Social Justice account, c/o Karen Goodman, 5328 N. Colonial, #101, Fresno, 93704

If you have any questions please feel free to call. You would be most welcome to join us on Thursday if you are interested.

Karen Goodman: 559-537-9197
kalgood [at]

§Cleaning up the homeless encampments in downtown Fresno
by Karen Goodman
Larry Collins and Ray Polk do the impossible - at least according to City Hall, who claims they can’t figure out how to empty their trash cans at a homeless encampment without it resulting in a lawsuit. City officials should consult with Larry and Ray to find out how it is done.
§Ray Polk
by Karen Goodman
Ray Polk, who is homeless, cleans up a section of an encampment near Monterey and E street in downtown Fresno.
§This is how it is done
by Karen Goodman
Every Thursday a group of concerned Fresnans deliver toilet paper, food, and condoms to the homeless. They also carry out a project that helps spay and neuter dogs who live in the encampments.
§Free Condoms
by Karen Goodman
A volunteer hands out free condoms, lubricant, and information about AIDS testing.
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