Project H20: Providing Clean Drinking Water to Fresno’s Homeless

Via @HomelessInFresno on InstagramVia @HomelessInFresno on Instagram

What Henry Perea Needs to Know: #HomelessInFresno

Homeless In Fresno is a community action team founded by Desiree Martinez. The Instagram account was created to document the homeless crisis in Fresno, Ca.

Martinez, inspired by moving conversations and support pushed her activism into the streets to ignite conversation, community action, and solutions for Fresno’s future. Martinez spent 24 hours in Downtown Fresno with no money, blankets, or food.

Her purpose; to create a direct and public experience into the struggles of those whom are stranded, forced to live life in the streets. She documented the entirety of her experience, capturing raw footage, and created a short film, featured for more than 50 people at Mia Cuppa, a local cafe in Fresno’s Tower District.

The core issues experienced by Martinez was the lack of access to clean water and unobtainable public restrooms.

Martinez continues to spend countless hours in conversations with the homeless (as Martinez puts it with “the experts themselves”) on the surrounding issues in not having a home. From The 24 Hour Homeless Experiment, a new community action plan was created, titled: Project H20.
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Sponsored by local donations, bottled water is given out to the homeless. Project H20 caught the attention of concerned citizens, and even the eyes of mainstream radio station B95.

While discussions for a new non-profit is in the works concerning water for the homeless in Fresno, the everyday crisis remains. Every time a water bottle is handed out, we must think in terms of sustainability and ask ourselves “what about tomorrow, or next week, or in ten years?” How will these issues be addressed?  The resolutions must be a quick response, in establishing remedies for long term solutions. Street teams handing out water takes up too much precious time and resources. We know volunteers can only last so long. On a larger scale, Fresno is not the only community facing similar epidemics, yet there are only a handful of cities being proactive concerning the public health emergency throughout America.

The brightest model being utilized to aid the homeless was created in Portland, and carries the name the Portland Lue. Portland Lue’s are 24 hour toilets with an outdoor sink available to the public, strategically placed throughout the city. The services offered are a small, yet accessible. Installations are estimated to be around $60,000, and require payments of $1,200 for the monthly upkeep, which is facilitated by the city.

Portland takes pride in this public health achievement and is actively seeking cities nation wide to collaborate in similar 1673225-inline-750-homeless3projects in joining Portland’s commitment to their city. The city of Fresno cannot rely on street teams, volunteers, non profits, and homeless shelters to be the only source for basic needs. The issue with such resources is the lack of consistency and the immense amounts of time needed to establish non-profits. Volunteers are not always available and street teams can only provide so much of their time to help out.

On the other hand, a system such as Portland Lue’s (although initially requires a large start-off cost) requires minimal maintenance and is available to all 24/7. Additionally, non-profits require resources to maintain staff and other costs which otherwise can be invested continuously for the homeless, instead of “miscellaneous” requirements for the non-profit.

And what about in 20 years; how long can a non-profit continue to sustain itself? Summers in Fresno will still be in the hundred degrees next year and the years to come, businesses will still have signs for restrooms stating “for customers only.” Every tactic implemented into Fresno thus far has not foresighted a plan with a 100 year mentality. A long-term plan. While handing out water, volunteers must ask themselves but what of tomorrow?

We must treat this marginalized group with dignity and respect. Truly, this is a matter of public health and saving lives. We must ask what the political powers in Fresno, such as Perea, what they can do about our city and the lives effected by homeless epidemic.  We, at Fresno Peoples Media, have a solution that would cost less than a 1200 dollar studio apartment in SF. A solution which will allow people to use the restroom in private, rather than behind dumpsters and have access to water rather than being hospitalized or die on the streets due to dehydration. Portland Lue, you have our vote.

Contact Desiree Martinez for more information about ProjectH20 HERE

Contributing editor: Abdilaziz Meqdad