The Thursday Group

By Karen Goodman
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 is considering a micro loan program to assist in emergencies.