By Preston Prince, CEO and Executive Director of the Fresno Housing Authority and the National President of the National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials’ Board of Governors
I have the most rewarding job in the world. I get to work with a great group of committed individuals working to end homelessness in Fresno. As the CEO of the Fresno Housing Authority, I am proud of our dedication and work on this issue. Our efforts follow the Housing First model – assisting an individual directly from the street and providing them with a housing opportunity. You see, we believe that housing is a right, not a privilege--not something to be earned, but necessary for health and human dignity. As a leader in my community, it is my goal to effectively join in this fight. The good news is that in the past few years many other agencies have stepped up their efforts in this collaborative effort.
Our most proud achievements include:
- New Construction: Fresno Housing created 123 units of newly constructed housing for people experiencing chronic homelessness. One new development is the Renaissance at Santa Clara, which opened in November of 2012 as permanent supportive housing for people who were chronically homeless. Renaissance at Santa Clara offers spacious studio apartments, and its fully-furnished units allow residents the opportunity to transition from a state of homelessness to one of stability so they can then focus on becoming well and reconnecting with the broader community. The development has a computer lab, a common area on-site, and friendly supportive staff.
- Public/Private Partnerships: This only works when we have partners. We need partners in providing funding, providing services, and providing outreach to people experiencing homelessness in Fresno. The Fresno Housing Authority has received significant funding from Fresno First Steps Home – the City of Fresno’s nonprofit organization dedicated to ending homelessness. With this funding we were able to conduct intensified outreach to unsheltered individuals and assess their needs for housing and services. This outreach led to 72 temporary housing placements, which are currently providing bridge housing while we work on permanent supportive housing solutions.
- Collaboration: Working with the national 100,000 Homes Campaign, Fresno Housing was one of the first public housing agencies to perform a Registry Week utilizing the Vulnerability Index. Our community went further, participating in a Rapid Results Boot Camp earlier this year. In our first 100 days, we improved housing solutions for the chronically homeless and vulnerable by 667 percent, taking us from housing an average of three people per month to 23 per month! How did we do this? Concerted, concentrated, consistent collaboration – everyone worked together for this common good.
- Real People: The Fresno Housing Authority focuses on real people. Chrissy, for example, had been homeless for about 5 years. She struggled with addiction and an extremely abusive relationship. Finally having enough, Chrissy got the strength to leave that relationship and start rebuilding her life in recovery. She admits to struggling mightily along the way, but Chrissy kept striving. Soon Chrissy became a leader in local efforts to end homelessness. She served on the board for the Continuum of Care, attending meetings and giving real voice to the concerns of those we serve. She is now in one of our Renaissance permanent supportive housing programs and is thriving. She recently gained employment as an in-house supportive services provider, providing home care for one of the elderly residents living at the Renaissance.
As you can see the Fresno Housing Authority is working diligently on the issue of the homelessness throughout Fresno County, and we hope we can inspire other public housing authorities across the country to replicate our efforts. Our dedicated staff and partners realize that as we celebrate our successes we also need to focus our efforts forward and sustain our collaborative work together to continue the fight.