[Hpn] Fresno, CA - Fresno officials want to boot the Rescue Mission to the
city's most distant corner - The Fresno Bee - July 1, 2002
Thu, 04 Jul 2002 07:32:26 -0500
Fresno faces urban crossroad:
Its downtown vision is at odds with groups' aid to the desperate.
Fresno officials want to boot the Rescue Mission to the city's most distant
By George Hostetter -- The Fresno Bee - July 1, 2002
For 20 years, the Fresno Rescue Mission and Cornerstone Church have served the
interests of City Hall while saving the souls of some of Fresno's neediest
When local politicians gave up on downtown and allowed growth to sprawl to the
north, the nondenominational Rescue Mission and Cornerstone, an Assembly of God
church, stayed behind to serve the homeless, poor and disadvantaged who were
drawn to the city's blighted urban core.
Now some Fresno officials want to boot the Rescue Mission to the city's most
distant corner while a city-backed citizens committee seeks to derail
Cornerstone's outreach to substance abusers, all because City Hall is getting
serious about revitalizing downtown.
The city-owned stadium, where the Fresno Grizzlies play their home Triple-A
baseball games, is a start to that revitalization effort.
The rest of the dream is outlined in Vision 2010, a multiphase strategy that
includes a $30 million bond deal to beautify downtown and make it an attractive
regional consumer destination.
But the city reasons that north-end consumers won't return downtown if they have
to rub shoulders with the often-desperate people attracted by service
institutions like the Rescue Mission.
The city appears most focused on the Rescue Mission, almost in the shadow of the
new stadium and across the Union Pacific Railroad tracks from a proposed
multimillion-dollar river walk.
"There could be some excellent opportunities if they want to move to another
area," said City Councilman Jerry Duncan, who also is chairman of the city's
Fresno Mayor Alan Autry said Fresno needs the Rescue Mission, but he thinks it
could be moved to a city-owned parcel three miles west of Highway 99 near the
Fresno Sanitary Landfill and the $10 million Regional Sports Park.
The city's concern with Cornerstone isn't quite so broad. City officials praised
Cornerstone for upgrading the arts and culture district.
But some at City Hall are worried about Cornerstone Pastor Jim Franklin's plans
to turn the former Vagabond Motel on Broadway into a 150-bed drug rehabilitation
center. They worry that the presence of recovering addicts within a few blocks
of some of Fresno's most popular museums will harm revitalization plans.
John Ferdinandi, co-chairman of the Downtown Implementation Team's Research,
Review and Recommendation Committee, said the Rescue Mission and Franklin's
proposed drug rehab center aren't compatible with neighborhood land-use plans.
"You need to do something for the homeless and those who have no place to go,"
he said. "However, how do you intermingle them with school kids?"
Rescue Mission and Cornerstone officials said their work with the disadvantaged
is an important part of their religious agenda. City officials said they are
trying to regulate downtown land uses for the greatest common good.
Rescue Mission officials have put on hold their plans to build a multipurpose
building -- with 300 overnight beds, 150 drug rehab beds, a gymnasium and a
full-service kitchen -- near the current facility until they decide whether to
pursue the city's relocation offer.
The Rev. Larry Arce, the mission's executive director, vowed to oppose any move
that hurts the mission's ability to serve its clients. "What you see out here
are people one step away from the grave. One step from hell," he said.
Privately, Rescue Mission officials ask how anyone at City Hall could think a
rescue mission in the middle of farmland would be accessible to the penniless.
Eventually, Arce said, the mission would like to grow from its current 10 acres
to 20 or 40 acres and include a secure outdoor setting for homeless people who
prefer to sleep under the stars.
Autry said he opposes a "concentration" of Rescue Mission services so close to
downtown, but he shows more enthusiasm for Franklin's plans.
The former Vagabond Motel is in an area covered by the Fulton-Lowell Specific
Plan, a blueprint for development for the area drafted about five years ago by
city officials and citizens. Any plans for the rehab center would have to be
approved within that blueprint.
"I have absolutely no problem with that plan," the mayor said of the Cornerstone
However, there is resistance among other stakeholders.
Dee Anderson, president of the African American Historical and Cultural Museum's
board, questions whether the rehab center belongs in a district focused on
museums that attract families with children, saying, "On the surface, it's not
something we can embrace."
Arte Americas museum board President Armando Rodriguez said he feels the drug
rehab center could "go in with conditions" that would make it a good neighbor.
H. C. [Sonny] Covington
Nonprofit Information Specialist
Homeless and Housing News