Real Change Fresno started out with the crazy idea that if people knew more about the cycle of homelessness and the work that was already being done, we might gather a larger pool of resources to accelerate this effort in our community.

On Thursday April 27th, Real Change Fresno Awareness Day gathered an eclectic group of community leaders, CEO’s, philanthropic institutions, community benefit organizations, Fresno State Humanics Scholars, CART Students, and others to visit City Hall, Catholic Charities, Poverello House and the Fresno Rescue Mission.

While handing produce from the Community Food Bank directly to clients at Catholic Charities, participants learned first hand from Executive Director Kelly Lilles about the difficulties of serving a mission while keeping the lights on. The diverse streams of income such as their thrift store and warehousing operations model the requirement for entrepreneurship in social action.

At the Fresno Rescue Mission, Deborah Torres and Rob Cravey gave stirring tours of the facilities they use to reclaim dignity and independence with its’ clients.

Just across the street at Poverello House, Cruz Avila and Sarah Mirhadi educated participants about the challenges they face and the necessary position they play. They have a unique ability to build relationships with individuals reluctant to access much needed deep services and restoration.

Smokey Rickerd, Executive Director of Amvets of CA and a participant of the tour, actually met a disabled veteran in their program who was entitled to VA services he wasn’t collecting, showing a small yet tangible success in the mission of spreading awareness.

To culminate this day of learning about the folks out there pounding the pavement on these streets daily, Dede from Fresno First Steps Home shared about her experience in being homeless for 7 years.

Her story about caring for her mother’s failing health, its snowballing financial burdens and the freak accident where her son was struck by a vehicle taught us that we are not as far separated from the person on the corner than we think.

Check out RealChangeFresno.org and take the pledge!

Real Change Fresno is a project of Leadership Fresno Class 33. Special thanks to Fresno State Humanics Scholars Desjanee Threat, Youa-Lai Lee and Angela Graham for their participation and outstanding representation of the program.