Plan aims to end chronic Fresno Co. homelessness - Tough Times in the Valley -

The starting point for Fresno's plan to solve its chronic homeless problem is a place called Tent City.

Here, clusters of makeshift homes have sprouted on railroad property downtown. Tent City and two smaller encampments nearby, which together house at least 300 homeless residents, are the most visible evidence of the problem -- and the focal point of a plan to end chronic homelessness in Fresno County in the next decade.

The plan: First provide housing, then tackle the larger problems, such as mental illness, drug and alcohol abuse that can keep people trapped on the streets.

That's a departure from traditional programs that require the chronically homeless to undergo months of treatment and counseling before they're deemed to be "housing ready."

Fresno's downtown homeless encampments are "going to be the starting point for us. These are the people that we have to help first," said Greg Barfield, who was appointed last year as Fresno's homeless prevention and policy manager. Among Barfield's challenges: implementing a 10-year plan to end homelessness that the city adopted last year in collaboration with Fresno County.


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