New City Position Brings Hope for the Homeless

By Ashley Ritchie and Winston Whitehurst

With just one day of work under his belt, Greg Barfield already has a nickname.

"Is that the one they're calling the Homeless Czar?" Homeless resident, Big Sue, asked.

Actually he's the Homeless Prevention and Policy Manager; the first of his kind to the city of Fresno.

"My job is now to help implement the ten year plan to end chronic homelessness," Greg Barfield, Homeless Prevention and Policy Manager for the city of Fresno, said.

It's no small task in a city with a homeless population in the thousands. And even on his first day, Barfield already felt the pressure when his staff posted removal of property notices in the area of Santa Clara and G Street.

"The other one said they were going to remove people," Big Sue said.

"It was clearly the city's intention only to clean up the garbage," Barfield said.

On Monday, city employees removed the notices and posted new ones; the first small step toward a hopefully much bigger solution.

"The large accumulation of trash is our number one concern. But ultimately as a city what we want to provide is short term avenues for supportive housing," Barfield said.

Barfield hopes in the next few months, the city will begin an aggressive approach to a housing first project. But what about those depending on him?

"I hope he's gonna be what we need," Big Sue said.

It's something the one they call the "Homeless Czar" hopes too.

Barfield says the city is not looking to remove anyone from homeless camps at this time.

But plans for the near future could include things like housing vouchers that would get people off the streets.

The city will begin the garbage removal process in the area of Santa Clara between E and G streets, as well as the G street and freeway 99 overpass on Wednesday.