On The 30-Year Plan

Glen Delpit and The Subterraneans share how they kept it together for three decades.

by Don Priest aka The Hound Dog | kfsrbluesdog@gmail.com

30 Years! About one-third of a lifetime! How many of us can say we’ve been doing something for 30 years, like living in the same house, working at the same job, staying with the same spouse?  In this age of transience, longevity seems almost a lost art.  But that art is not lost on one local band that will be celebrating their 30th Anniversary at Fulton 55 on Sunday, December 3d.

Yes, Glen Delpit and The Subterraneans are 30 years old! Hard to believe, even for them, that a band which began as a side project for the now defunct “Houserockers,” is still performing today.

“A lot of luck and a great mix of personalities,” is how Glen Delpit attributes their longevity.  “Easy going, even-keeled individuals that get along well and are open to a lot of ideas.”

Yes, there have been some changes in personnel over the years. But the core group of Glen on guitar and vocals, with Dean MacDonald on lead guitar, John Suhr on keyboards and Joe Luppino on drums have been together throughout. Even the newest member, bassist Chris Eacock has been a “Sub” for eight years.

As for the music of the Subterraneans, it’s all original and springs from the fertile imagination of Mr. Delpit.  A prolific songwriter who has penned over 500 tunes, he strives to make his lyrics as poetic as possible and follows the examples set by those he considers The Masters.  “T.S. Eliot said, ‘If you’re going to steal, (and everybody does), steal from the best. No use stealing from someone mediocre’ and I follow that rubric,” he says. Thus his songs may contain ideas based on “couplets from Robert Johnson and other early blues greats like Charley Patton, ideas and lines from Hank Williams and of course the master B. Dylan. I doubt I would have written much without his inspiration,” he says.

The result is something he calls “Bluesrootsy Americana,” a style based on Blues/Rock and Folk that’s very lyric driven and very danceable.  Glen has written so much material that the band has already produced 5 CDs worth of his tunes and is currently working on the 6th.

Of course over a 30-year period, you’d expect there to be some significant memories, like the first gig at “The Oly” and early shows at “The Wild Blue”- two legendary venues from days past.  “The Blue was like family. I met my wife there,” says MacDonald.”   The band has also backed Bo Diddley and opened for The Fabulous Thunderbirds, Booker T, Dave Alvin (who Glen describes as “the best roots artist in the country”) and most recently for Los Lobos. “That was a real treat,” says MacDonald.

But more than people and places, it’s really the music that keeps this band together. “I love to play,” says MacDonald.  “And if there’s an opportunity to play in front of people that makes it even better.”

As for playing with ‘The Subs’ he offers, “We started as bandmates and turned into friends.”

Friends that have been making music together for over 30 years.  Happy Anniversary Glen Delpit and The Subterraneans!

Think Local. Shop Small

by Lisa Talley | lisa@fresnoflyer.com

Last year, shoppers spent a staggering $655.8 billion on Black Friday, just one single day of sales and specials. Even more, those numbers are split between in-store and online purchases as shoppers find fewer reasons to compete shoulder-to-shoulder in crowded stores for their prized item, putting online sales at $3.3 billion in 2016. As expected, the top numbers went to the most significant discounters: Amazon, Target, Best Buy, Walmart and Kohl’s. But imagine what would happen if small and locally owned businesses got a piece of that pie.

Currently, California outdoes all the other states with the highest number of small businesses (those employing under 100 people) and ranking number one in the nation. In fact, according to a U.S. Small Business Administration report in 2015, 99.2 percent of employers in the state are small firms (employing under 500). That’s 6.5 million employees who work for a small business and likewise, millions of reasons to spend dollars at local establishments.

When we choose to shop local, we decide to support local in a real and practical way. Whether it’s stopping in for breakfast at Chicken Pie Shop in Tower or grabbing a Poke bowl at 201 Kitchen in Hanford for lunch, the revenue they earn from your business is more likely to go back into the Central Valley. Everything from taxes, rent, and fees to purchasing supplies and services from other local vendors, it’s all money pouring right back here at home to improve and strengthen the local economy.

There are also some additional perks that you’ll be hard-pressed to find at the big stores as well.

It’s not uncommon for patrons to walk into a small business and unknowingly engage with the owner who is either helping their sales force move items or holding down the front desk to assist customers. In this event, a customer who is looking for the best deal has an increased chance at negotiating a better price if they’re working with the owner. Each business has their set of costs, but without a large corporation tying their hands with regulations and strict policies, the owner can work with their customer on-the-spot to beat the competition.

Building a holiday wish list can, for many, be a bit of a ritual – tireless research for the right model, brand, technical specs, price and for the store offering the best deal – however, small businesses tend to be overlooked as shoppers plan their Black Friday and holiday shopping. The Central Valley has plenty to offer and a wide range of small, locally owned businesses to choose from.

Here are just a few we’ve had the pleasure of working with.

1. Jensen & Watts – Owner: Jeff Johnston

Family owned and operated since 1960, this Fresno business specializes in outdoor equipment. Lawn mowers, generators, power saws, edgers, chainsaws, vacuums, etc. Jensen & Watts also provide parts, services, and accessories for Stihl, Honda, Tanaka, Briggs and Stratton, Kawasaki, Ariens, and Tecumseh.

Located at 516 N Chestnut Ave, Fresno. (559) 255-0465 www.JensenandWatts.com

2. Fresno Hock Shoppe – Owner: Robbie Van Gronigen

Fresno Hock Shoppe has been a Belmont Ave figure, locally owned and operated, for 30 years. Robbie took over ownership five years ago, although he has worked for the Hock Shoppe the entire 30 years it has been open. The pawn shop sells a variety of items like guitars, basses, musical instruments, tools, electronics like tablets, laptops and game consoles, and firearms. The staff, always eager to help, are known for their youthful and energetic approach.

Between now and Christmas, Hock Shoppe is offering 30% off jewelry and select electronics (except layaways).

The Fresno Hock Shoppe also offers a variety of items on eBay, and you can also check out their inventory on their website at www.FresnoHockShop.com

3. TV Guyz – Owner: Edgar Sandoval

Locally owned and operated for three years, TV Guyz – if the name didn’t already give it away – specialize in TVs, computers, gaming consoles, and games. One thing you wouldn’t expect is that they also offer furniture. TV Guyz can also repair cellphones, computers, and gaming consoles.

Currently, TV Guyz is offering $60 Firesticks (Kodi installed) $130 Fire TV box, and 32 inch TVs for $90 during the holiday season.

Located at 4843 N Blackstone Ave Fresno. View their inventory and services at www.TheTVGuyz.com (559) 493-8403

4. Karkazian Jewelers – Owner: George Karkazian

Family Owned since 1978, George Karkazian opened his first store on West & Shields, and soon after, Karkazian Jewelers moved to the corner of Shaw and Willow where they established themselves as one of the Valley’s leaders in jewelry/watch sales and repair for over 40 years. In July 2007, Karkazian Jewelers added a second location in north Fresno at the corner of Friant and Ft. Washington. In February 2009, Karkazian Jewelers moved their Clovis location two blocks to East, right on Shaw Avenue between Willow and Peach.

Karkazian Jewelers focuses on quality jewelry with a pleasant buying experience. One of the few jewelers that can cut and polish your chipped diamonds.

Located at 493 W. Shaw Ave Suite B Clovis (559) 297-0201  9447 Ft Washington Rd #110 Fresno (559) 434-9009 www.KarkazianJewelers.com

5. Bebe O’s Vintage Boutique – Owners: Lupe and Martin Oftedal

Born and raised in Fresno, Lupe and Martin opened up Bebe O’s after Lupe suffered an injury at work. They began selling new and used designer clothing and are now a vintage only store. Specializing in vintage fashions and furnishings, Bebe O’s also offers vintage party wears perfect for themed parties. Customers can even rent pieces for a special occasion in which you’ll receive some tailored attention.

Lupe and Martin say it’s not unusual to have a client several hours in the shop as they are trying on a variety of clothes and fitted properly.

Bebe O’s is also active in the local community, often involved in fundraising efforts. Some of the causes they’ve raised money and items for include cancer, autism, homelessness, battered women, and education. In fact, on December 16 they will be hosting their 8th Annual Christmas Party and Toy Drive. There will be refreshments, entertainment, plus discounts and giveaways. Admission is a donated unwrapped toy.

Located at 1130 N Wishon Ave, Fresno. (559) 445-1928

6. Deans Coins – Family Owned Over 30 years

This family owned and operated pawn shop carries a variety of items including jewelry, TVs, tablets, and tools just to name a few. For the holiday season, they’re offering 10% off all TVs.

Located at 2325 E McKinley Ave Fresno. (559) 264-4653 www.DeansCoins.com

Be safe as you head out to hunt down that perfect must-have thing on your wish list, but don’t forget to check out the local guys – you never know what you’ll find. Happy shopping!

Relentless. Tenacious. Monsters.

The Fresno Monsters Hockey team is coming back strong for the 2017-18 season.

by Lisa Talley | lisa@fresnoflyer.com

The Fresno Monsters are currently 6-6 for the 2017-18 season. The Tier II Western States Hockey League (WSHL) team opened the season with a three-game series in Lakewood, CA on September 28 against team rivals, the Long Beach Bombers. A quick look at the stat sheet and it would be easy to assume that things are sailing into a repeat of last year’s disappointing season for the Monsters with an ending 25-22 record… but anyone making that assumption would be wrong. So very wrong.

Looking past the next two games, this time against the Valencia Flyers, the Monsters rose to the occasion after a 2-8, 2-5, loss and hit hard in the third set with an impressive 11-3 win. That’s more than enough to turn heads because luck doesn’t bring an 8pt lead – that’s the signature of dedication and hard work.

The Monsters took to the start of the season with only 12 players – a staggering number compared to the 20-25 on the opposing teams – not reaching a full roster themselves until well after the start of the season. And although it’s arguable that the increase in numbers for the team played a significant role in helping to boost the Monsters’ performance for game three against the Flyers, it would be short-sighted. Anyone looking for a sense of what the core spirit of the team looks like this year only needs to look closely at the opening games in Lakewood – where the players showed grit and determination.

“That weekend, those guys showed me a lot of character, a lot of passion, a lot of heart. The 2nd game we lost with 2 seconds left, the 3rd we missed the net with 15 seconds left after we pulled the goalie. That 3rd game we kept pressuring and I’m thinking we’re going to collapse, we’re going to get so tired in the 3rd period, but these guys kept coming and coming – it showed me what kind of character we have in that locker room, and they made this coach very proud,” says Head Coach Kevin Kaminski.

Each game in the first series the Monsters lost by a single point, by a few mere seconds, and all with only 12 players taking the brunt of every other shift.  Even still, the team powered through, holding their ground with resolve, skill, and willpower; it isn’t difficult to imagine how different those games would have been had the team arrived with a full roster.

The following three-game series against the San Diego Sabers showed an upswing as the Monsters dominated 2-1 through the weekend with a 5-2 start, an impressive 6-0 second game, and a 1-3 loss with the Sabers pulling the win in the third set.  The most recent series against the Phoenix Knights at the Monsters’ home venue, Gateway Ice Center, showed not only the fans but the league that the team means to finish big this season. October 19, 20, & 21, the Fresno Monsters swept the weekend with a notable 6-3, 9-3, and a demolishing 11-0 to round out the three-game sweep.

Team Captain, Cody Key, is optimistic about the team’s performance moving forward, “The guys this season have a lot of heart, a lot of drive, so I think this year we have a good [team] to go all the way.”

Bringing back a number of players this year – defensemen Daniel “Goodie” Goodwin (20) and Logan Domagala (19),  as well as veteran Cody Key (20) – the team has also signed on several new talent both national and international – Fresno native and forward, Daylon Mannon (18), goalie Adam Barvik (20) and defenseman Ondrej Gabrhelik (20) both from the Czech Republic. Players from Canada, Hungary, Latvia, and Slovakia also round out this year’s  talent.

The incorporation of international players brings with it the addition of different styles of hockey and provides yet another active layer in the team.“The European guys, they bring a different kind of hockey out here to the states… they’re more skilled in that they do a lot of finesse with the puck. All the guys from the states, they bring a gritty attitude to the ice. It’s good to have it all on the team,” says Key.

As it stands, however, the season’s top scorer (at the time of this article) goes to a local. Daylon Mannon – debuting both with the Monsters and the league this season – holds the title with the 18 goals and 16 assists for a total of 34 points over the course of 12 games.

“I couldn’t do it without my teammates, Cody Key, Rudy, and my defense, honestly,” says Mannon of his success through the start of the season, “I talk a lot to the vets on and off the ice, they tell me what I should and shouldn’t do because of [their experience]”.

The Monsters’ identity and the foundation are rooted in a strong work ethic and unity. As stated by Kaminski, “a relentless work ethic and a physical brand of hockey.”

“Here in Fresno everyone bonds together becomes a family. We sacrifice our bodies and put ourselves on the line day in and day out for each other,” Key adds.

Defenseman Logan Domagala is holding down the ice as an enforcer for the Monsters with a total of 44 minutes in penalties so far – a responsibility he shares with fellow defenseman Daniel “Goodie” Goodwin.

Although fighting in hockey has changed over the years as the game has put more emphasis on speed and skating ability, throwing off the gloves is still a very present element.

“It happens. When you’re down by a lot or have a [teammate] get run – cheap shotted or whatever it may be, you have to protect your young guys and your goal scorers. Some of us just have to do it,” shares Domagala.

The Fresno Monsters, established in 2009, has a reputation for being a strong contender in the WSHL. Fresno alone stands as a city with a long hockey tradition dating all the way back to 1940 with the Fresno Falcons – one Taylor Cup and eleven years as champions in two different leagues – the Fresno Monsters, after the Falcons folded in 2009, picked up the torch without a blink and have been charging ahead ever since. Only the 2016-17 season last year stands out as a slight hitch in their stride. However, it was also that same year the team underwent some major changes.

After a six-season run coaching the WSHL Monsters, then head coach and general manager, Bryce Dale stepped down from his position in March 2016. Three months following, in June 2016, owner, David White sold the team to the Central Valley Community Sports Foundation, led by Jeff Blair.

Massive changes to shoulder for a team ramping up to a new season.

Coming in to replace Bryce Dale as head coach and general manager is former NHL enforcer, Kevin “Killer” Kaminski. With an 11-year professional career, the past Washington Capitals Center is known for his hard-nosed style of play, and he’s bringing it to the ice here in Fresno.

“I pride myself and the team on work ethic, tenacity, playing physical and [having the team] demand that out of each other,” says Kaminski of his coaching style, “Talent is great, but when you combine that talent with a work ethic you [have] a special kind of player.”

And a special kind of team, no doubt.

Retired in 2001, Kaminksi left the NHL due to concussions and a debilitating injury when he caught a hockey puck to the right side of his face that resulted in “2 plates, 12 screws, and 140 stitches.” All telltale signs of his signature fearless and aggressive style of play which is evident in how the Monsters tackle each game. However, his experience also brings a honed awareness of the toll the sport of hockey takes on an athlete.

“It’s a long season. [As a] players coach I know when to push them and when to give them a day off or 2,” says Kaminski.

Building a cohesive team, according to the head coach, requires not only demanding strong performances but also reminding everyone to have fun. Because that’s what it’s all about, “to go have fun and score some goals.”

The success of the Monsters is significantly reliant on the eye and precision of the head coach’s ability, the steadfast leadership of the team captain, as well as the skill, unity, and determination of each player. And the devotion of the fans.

“This is a mad-house, [other teams] don’t like coming to Fresno,” shares Domagala, “You wouldn’t expect Fresno to be a hockey town, but it definitely is.”

“You can say that we have the rowdiest fans in the league,” adds Goodwin.

Between the signs, the various props, cheering and heckling towards the opposing teams, the Fresno Monsters are immensely grateful for the support of the fans who show up to every home game.

“It intimidates a lot of other teams when they come to our barn because we get so many fans in here – it puts us a step ahead. I appreciate our fans and hope they keep coming out,” continues Key.

Both Key and Goodwin “age out” this year as the WSHL league eligibility caps at age 20. Each player hopes to leave a legacy of hard work, strong leadership and to set the standards for new players coming through the ranks of what it means to wear the Monsters jersey.

“Be strong and level-headed, keep your composure, and go hard. Do your best and leave it all on the ice,” shares Goodwin.

The team has their sights set on driving deep into the playoffs and punishing the opposition for a chance at the Thorne Cup. If the Monsters continue to perform in the manner with which they’ve been handling the last few games, and judging by the scope of talent, focus, and determination of the players led by Kevin “Killer” Kaminski, the odds are that fans will see them in the finals by mid-April 2018.

Storming the ice, the Monsters bring speed and aggression to the game. It’s a sight every spectator should experience first-hand, as the arena only allows for the smallest separation of plexiglass between fan and athlete. No high rise or expansive rows to shy away to, fans are face-to-face with the action, which often means being less than 2 feet away from a flying puck or a 180-200lb player slamming the opposition. Fans don’t just watch; they’re part of the battleground.

The Fresno Monsters full schedule of games is available on their website www.FresnoMonsters.com along with stats, news, and tickets to the games at the Gateway Ice Center.

Follow them on Facebook @FresnoMonsters, Twitter and Instagram @WSHLMonsters.

The Great Escape

by Lisa Talley | lisa@fresnoflyer.com

“There is a live zombie in the room on a chain… “ Andrew Vallejo tries but fails to hide a mischievous smirk as he rattles off this little fact with a very cool nonchalance.

Of course, it’s not a real zombie – otherwise, we’d all be staring at a very dark and dreary future akin to the likes of Fear the Walking Dead – but an actor who has a romping good time playing the part.

And it’s all just another day for The Great Escape, a locally owned and operated business in Clovis offering a collection of rooms for patrons to attempt an escape.

A year in the making, The Great Escape is the brainchild of owner, Jana Wilkerson – a teacher within the Fresno Unified School District for the past 20 years. The inspiration came soon after a trip to bring her son back to college where she tackled her first escape room. Jana found an immediate passion for solving intricate puzzles in very tense environments.

“After that weekend she spent a month thinking about what she would have done differently and how she would develop a room [herself],” shares Andrew Vallejo, manager of The Great Escape. “After a month of it keeping her awake at night, she decided just to do it.”

All the rooms – themes, puzzles, and game in all – are entirely original and unique to The Great Escape. Wilkerson initiates the construction of the rooms concerning themes, ideas, and puzzles, and when they’re ready for a test run, she’ll unleash them on her staff.

“We try it, give our ideas and then help to re-develop or perfect the puzzle. It becomes a group effort,” says Vallejo of the experience.

The process of developing a completely original game can take some time as the crew has to not only work out the kinks but also to find puzzles that can work within a constrained space. However, rather than seeing it as a deterrent away from theme ideas, they view any limitation as an inspiration to take the games in a unique direction.

Inside The Great Escape, there are a series of rooms of all shapes and sizes. Flanking the right are two small rooms and a long, narrow room. Instead of attempting to create a game for each of the different spaces, figuring out how to cram eight people into each room, the talented staff created a game split a group right down the middle.

The Heist is a game – complete with a laser maze – that takes half the team and plops them in a room away from the rest of the group. They would then tackle the puzzles in their space while the other four attempted to solve the remaining mysteries in the room next to them, each needing the help of the other team to complete the escape.

“The Heist is all about communication and it’s funny to watch how different people communicate with each other,” says Vallejo about being on the other side of the games as a proctor. “However, the Zombie Lab is probably everyone’s favorite to watch.”

Ah, there it is. The zombie reference is coming full circle now.

The Zombie Lab is The Great Escape’s most intense experience, which is primarily due to the live zombie in the room who chases the participants around as they attempt to figure out their clues. Every 5 minutes, the chain holding the zombie in place gets longer, meaning that the zombie has more reach and flexibility in getting its hands on someone.

“About halfway through he can pretty much get you from anywhere [in the room]. If you’re tagged, you’re infected and have to stay in the infirmary until your team finds and chooses to use the antidote [which] can only be used once,” explains Vallejo.

A quick look at the Zombie Lab inside The Great Escape

It’s a strategic game that requires quick thinking and quick footwork. The tension in the Zombie Lab tends to run high, so the staff has incorporated a ‘lab assistant’ who helps to oversee the entire process.

“Fight or flight is very real, and people do the strangest things when they are in that fight or flight mentality. It’s so unpredictable and makes it fun to [watch],” continues Vallejo.

The staff assures that although many people are wary of the Zombie Lab, every team who chooses the room comes out through the other side having had a great time.

The Great Escape’s crew aim to create unique experiences for its patrons, and that means replacing the old with the new. Each theme is active for six months before putting a new game into place. Old themes have not made reappearances in the past, but depending on demand, they could see a repeat.

Currently, the only room facing an overhaul is the one hosting the Mafia Bomb Squad – set in 1920s prohibition – and will be replaced with a new game titled The Curse at the end of the month.

The Curse centers on a tropical vacation that has gone wrong. Someone in the group has stolen a precious artifact that set a curse upon the entire team. Your job? Figure out who took it and what ‘it’ is.

The Great Escape is currently offering specials for the Halloween season with promo code: HALLOWEEN2017. The Mafia Bomb Squad is 20% off while it’s still in session. Anyone using the promo code will also receive 10% off the Zombie Lab. Can you handle?

For more information follow The Great Escape online @thegreatescapeclovis on Instagram and @thegreatescapegames on Facebook.

Terror At Station Thirteen

by Anglia M Walpool | awalpool49@gmail.com

If you’re looking for a thrill on Halloween tune into Facebook as the Central Valley’s horror guru, Michael Rodriguez will be showcasing his new sci-fi thriller ‘Terror at Station Thirteen’. It will stream live for 24 hours on October 31.

Although ‘Terror at Station Thirteen’ is a short film, Michael promises exceptional special effects, realistic makeup, and a captivating storyline.

The Kerman native has been writing and directing independent horror films for five years. The love for the grisly genre traces back to when his father took him to see ‘Dawn of the Dead’ at the drive-in. Rodriguez is well known for ‘Lamb Feed,’ ‘Night of the Sea Monkey,’ and ‘Home Wrecked.’

Relentless and determined, Rodriguez often finishes one project and then immediately prepares for another. Joseph D. Greenwood – actor, director, and producer with Candles & Wine Productions – says of the local filmmaker, “The dedication and determination that Michael Rodriguez demonstrates in his craft is inspiring and a good example for independent filmmakers to follow.”

“Terror at Station Thirteen was written, produced, and directed by yours truly and is my ghoulish gift to horror fans for this Halloween season,” says Rodriguez about his new film. “If you look up Premiere of Terror at Thirteen Station’s event page, I’ll also have my feature film ‘Last American Horror’ available.”

The culmination of the filmmaking process is all about sharing it with fellow fans of the horror genre rather than seeing the completed film himself.

“Every moment of bringing a thought or an idea to life is fun and exciting to me. My least favorite part of my work is in post-production (editing). When I watch my work so many times to [cut it together] somehow, it just loses that luster… by the time the movie is finished I’m already sick of watching it,” Rodriguez laughs.

Even as a horror guru, fans would be surprised to know that Michael is not a Halloween fanatic. The director usually enjoys a quiet evening at home on most Halloween nights with a horror classic on the TV as he waits for trick-or-treaters to knock on the door.

Lonnie Pelley, a local comedian who has a walk-on role in the film, said the opportunity was a pleasant surprise, “I met Michael over the summer at the weekend blender held in August 2017, we both came in as a guest. He was promoting his movies, and I was promoting my comedy/ both live in Kerman. I told him if he ever needed an extra for any of his movies, I’d like to be one. Well, low and behold Michael got in touch with me and asked if I would like to be in his new movie? I did not hesitate and replied back with ‘yes, I’d love to!’ … This is the first time I’ve acted in a scary movie. I had a lot of fun filming with all the other actors, and I can’t wait for the movie to come out.”

So if you are a fan or just curious you can view Michael Rodriguez’s new masterpiece “Terror at Station Thirteen” for 24 hours on Facebook, October 31, absolutely free.

Kindness, Not Jail. Empathy, Not Fines.

by Lisa Talley | lisa@fresnoflyer.com

“Humanize them.” Carrying over the noise of Fresno City Council’s recent passing of the camping-ban ordinance, this mantra has quickly become the unifying voice against the city’s decision to, for lack of a better word, criminalize the homeless.

On August 17, 2017, in a 4-1 vote, the City Council declared tents, lean-tos, and general camping on public or private property within Fresno City limits illegal. Those caught in violation will have the option to be escorted to MAP Point – Multi-Agency Access Program based at the Poverello House – for housing, health, rehabilitation, etc. otherwise that individual faces jail time of up to 6 months or receives a $1,000 fine. The ordinance went into effect on September 30, 2017.

On the surface, the ordinance appears to be that built from good intentions, urging those on the street to seek help as an alternative to being charged with the misdemeanor crime. It also heavily implies that there are large numbers of homeless individuals who either aren’t aware of these services or refuse to utilize them, that they prefer life on the streets and make a choice to remain homeless. This ordinance has been described as a method of “tough love” by Don Eskes, CEO of the Fresno Rescue Mission, and the ordinance’s initial sponsor, Councilman Steve Brandau. However, despite its facile good intentions, the law and its proponents lack depth and foresight.

“There are people out there, who have had a [housing voucher] for 3 months, still sleeping on the streets or in the park, waiting for a home,” says Desiree Martinez – Founder of the non-profit organization, We Are Not Invisible Foundation dba Homeless In Fresno – in response to the ordinance. Martinez’s sentiments echo that of other organizations who are also struggling with a lack of resources. The homeless population outnumbers that of available beds in local shelters.

In the August 17 City Council meeting, numerous Fresno residents called to question the efficiency of the ordinance. Fresno Madera Continuum of Care Vice Chair, Jody Ketcheside, stated, “There are some misconceptions about available shelters in our community. We do have one large shelter that people can stay in for up to 30 days. Once they’ve timed out at 30 days, they cannot return for another year. Our MAP Point clients that are currently on the list for housing, once they’ve stayed in the shelter for 30 days, they have to go back to the streets.”

It begs an earnest question that supporters of the ordinance need to consider. What are the homeless supposed to do if they’ve gone through the services, assigned to a caseworker, have a housing voucher in hand – and they are currently in limbo as they wait for a home to become available – but no shelter has space for them? What are they to do then, where are they supposed to go, if not the streets? And it’s a question that no member of City Council or City Officials has yet to provide an answer.

“When people say ‘you’re homeless because you want to be’ that sends rage through them. No one truly wants to be homeless. The addicts, the alcoholics, even they want to be inside of a house hiding as they do drugs or drink. They don’t want to be out in public letting everyone know their business,” shares Martinez of the continuing misunderstanding that homelessness is, for some, a choice.

“The ordinance is [going to harm] a lot more people. There’s going to be a lot more victims, there are a lot of rapes that go down out there,” Martinez’s voice grows soft as she continues at this point. “There are a lot of women out here, and they’re the ones saying ‘if you take away my tent I will be breaking in [somewhere], I’m not going to [be without] any protection over me all night long.”

Living on the streets is not part of a counter-culture movement or a vacation from responsibility; the streets are a dangerous place. Tents and impromptu shelters provide protection, however minimal it may seem, from not only the elements but also from people. According to Martinez, accounts of assault are common as victims fight off assailants who will attack at the sound of a tent zipper coming undone. The level of attacks is also the reason why so many dogs live amongst the homeless.

But it’s not just attacks from others within the homeless community that they have to worry about; it’s also the attacks from those on the outside.

“They’ve had rocks thrown at them, tire irons, and even cinder blocks – kids were driving by throwing cinder blocks onto tents – and the tents have, at times, protected them,” says Martinez.

Desiree Martinez holds her ground at the Sept 29 protest of the anti-camping ordinance held at Fresno City Hall – photo credit: Richard D Iyall

The unsheltered population is a marginalized group where a significant disparity persists in the understanding between those living on the street and everyone else. Many believe that the path to truly solving the issue of homelessness begins with compassion, empathy, and acknowledgment, not with criminalization.

Desiree Martinez started Homeless in Fresno for the sole purpose of bridging the gap of communication between the fortunate and less fortunate. The focus centered around a media project that documented life in the streets of Fresno through the photography and video medium. However, it was not through the lens of a camera that sparked her passion in advocating for the homeless, but the fact that she knows, first-hand, what it’s like to be homeless.

“I know what it’s like to be hungry. I know what it feels like to be homeless. I know what it feels like to see people react when they find out you’re homeless,” she shares. “And it’s always one of 2 reactions, overwhelming pity or blame, ‘you chose it, you deserve to be homeless.”

At the mere mention of the word ‘homeless,’ a gap seems to manifest and widen with every passing moment between the sheltered and unsheltered. Recall, if you can, the last time you encountered a homeless person, did you talk to them? Did you say hello? Or did you walk past them without a glance?

“People don’t know that their words and expressions are like daggers. They notice when you walk by without looking at them and ignoring them,” she continues.

Through her organization, Martinez focuses on the needs and issues of the street homeless. Down in the trenches, she works face to face with the less fortunate, often without any breaks or days off, implementing any number of her six projects at one time. At its core, Martinez built these projects around the immediate needs of the community, but they also provide an opportunity for volunteers to work in close collaboration and more personally with the street homeless.


Project H2O

April to September

At the inception of her media project, Martinez began observing that there was a severe lack of available water and access to water. “[There was a] lack of fountains, lack of restaurants and businesses willing to give out water. Everyone was dying of thirst so I started Project H2O]” she states.

It’s a simple necessity that often goes unnoticed. Aside from needing the water to drink, it’s also used for bathing, washing clothes, cooking, and also to keep their animals hydrated.

During the hottest months of the year, when temperatures reach 110 degrees, water is crucial. Without access to cooling centers or an air-conditioned building, those living on the streets are at an increased risk of heat exhaustion and heatstroke. Martinez adapted the project to hand out frozen water bottles because of this.

Water is needed all year round, but larger quantities are also necessary during the project’s current months (April – September). Volunteers are also needed to help freeze the bottles and disperse them out to the community.

Hoodies for the Homies

September to February

“I came up with Hoodies for the Homies because last year I did a coat drive and I got hundreds and hundreds of coats… I had been blessed by the community so much. But I came to find out that we were receiving a lot of parkas, wool blazers… just really expensive jacket wear,” says Martinez.

The most pressing issue surrounding these types of donations were regarding the durability of the coat through the rainy weather. As it rains, the coats become wet, and as the homeless do not have access to laundry mats to dry their clothes, they stay wet. Often, if a person attempts to hang their clothes to dry, they’re taken down by the police, and over time, the wet clothes will begin to smell, and the homeless have no choice but to throw them away. Martinez was plowing right through the donations which caused her to seek out a better method.

Hooded sweatshirts became the answer due to their flexibility and comfort. Martinez took it a step further and decided to include a poncho with every hoodie to help keep it dry.

Donations of ponchos are always welcome, but Martinez wants people to bear in mind that the ponchos from places like the Dollar Tree only last through a single rain.

Project Share the Warmth

October to April

Centering around everything warm, the object of this project includes giving out soups, hot cocoa, hot coffee, hot tea, scarves, mittens, hats, blankets, hand warmers, socks, etc.

“I can’t have enough socks. They go through socks every single day because of the rain. [Socks are] also multipurpose, they’ll string them together and make scarves, cut holes in them and make gloves, or turn them into a sweater for their Chihuahua,” says Martinez.

Donations that help keep the homeless warm and dry are welcome. Wool blankets are encouraged as they are more water repellent than most blankets.

Martinez also spends this time speaking at elementary schools and Fresno City College to raise awareness by educating the public about hypothermia and ways to keep warm

Potluck in the Park

Every Month on the 3rd Saturday

This project allows members of the community to interact with and get to know some homeless individuals. It invites anyone and everyone to bring a dish, sponsor meals or to volunteer on the serving line. However, this potluck has specific restrictions for the person or business who decides to participate.

Each volunteer is required to not only prepare the food they’re donating but also to package and serve it themselves. As this is a community event that gives access for the homeless to a warm, home-cooked style meal with more substantial nutrition, but it’s also a learning experience that teaches people how to communicate with the less fortunate.

“We talk to strangers, hold open doors for people we’ve never met, but we’re afraid to talk to someone who’s poor? I’ll have six people on the serving table, and I tell them to make sure they ask everyone their name and how their day’s been going. When they take a break to eat, they are to sit down and eat next to a homeless individual and get to know them,” explains Martinez.

Businesses who have participated in the past include Deli Delicious, Smokin’ Burrito food truck, and WTF food truck.

Hygiene Project

All Year Round

“I’ve been thinking of calling it Project Dignity,” shares Martinez.

Hygiene kits include toothpaste, deodorant, toilet paper, cotton swabs, feminine products, and other items useable without access to water such as wet wipes and dry shampoo. It’s important to remember that water, even if accessible, is extremely limited.

The project also raises awareness of not only what to give but what not to give. Mouthwash and hand sanitizer contain alcohol; the alcoholics will drink it and become sick.

Earplugs are also included in the kits to address a much more alarming issue.

“They sleep on the ground and the amount of bugs that out in the winter time… We have a lot of people out there who are pulling roaches and bugs out of their ears,” explains Martinez.

Project Street Clean

All Year Round

This unique project puts the homeless to work in exchange for food. More specifically, Martinez hands out trash bags to homeless volunteers and instructs them to pick up the trash in parks and community areas. Once the bags are full, they turn them into Martinez who hands back a meal.

“I’ve been doing this for almost two years, helping them, but I needed to start holding them accountable. So I started showing up saying ‘no one’s getting any free food anymore, you’re going to have to work for it,’” Martinez says.

It’s an effort to prove to the rest of the community that there are those who are willing to work and not everyone who is homeless deserves the label of criminal, dirty, or mentally ill.

Parks and Recreation at Roeding Park have begun working with Martinez by disposing of the collected trash.

Get Involved

Desiree Martinez has found her calling in dedicating her life’s work to helping the street homeless, working nearly 365 days a year directly with the community. And even though many of us are unable to give of ourselves, in the same way, we can still be part of the solution in small but meaningful doses.

Homeless in Fresno is a staff of one as Martinez is the organization’s only full-time staff member, so it goes without saying that volunteers are not only welcome but encouraged. Donations in the form of supplies or monetary are also a big help.

Many other local organizations are in the same boat as Martinez, as they struggle to keep up with the needs of the homeless community. Find a shelter or group near you that aligns with your available contribution levels.

And no matter your situation, there is one thing that we can all give that costs absolutely nothing: compassion.

The homeless issue is a complex one filled with many factors. There are some who suffer from mental illness and lack access to treatment, others who are afflicted with addiction and alcoholism, and plenty of those who only fell on hard times without a support system to catch them. If we, as a community, hope ever to resolve this problem we must begin with kindness, remembering that these individuals are brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers. They are people, our people.

For more information about Homeless in Fresno, its projects and how to volunteer or donate, visit www.wanif.org

Hurricane Relief

Know your charities.

by Lisa Talley | lisa@fresnoflyer.com

Natural disasters elicit a mix of complex emotions: horror, empathy, shock, and a deep-seated need to do something. For many of us, the options are few as we’re either unable to or unqualified to volunteer in a disaster area. Charities become the best opportunity to lend a helping hand through the means of monetary donations. However, choosing which one to donate to can feel like a daunting task. Here are some tips to help you decide on an organization.

Research your group – Take some time to read up on the organization’s history of rescue efforts. CharityWatch.org is an excellent resource for studying groups that accept donations, looking closely at how efficient that team is in using those donations directly towards the programs the donors support.  CharityNavigator.org is also a great reference site for those looking to make donations.

Local or National – Part of your research should include if that group is local to the area of the disaster. Do they have experience in that city or neighborhood? Do they employ locals or work with local organizations? Knowing their experience could help not only determine how efficiently they spend their funds, but also how efficient their rescue efforts are.

Think Twice – before sending items like clothing or blankets. These types of donations take up space and divert resources to sorting, storing or cleaning these things instead of focusing on relief efforts. Making monetary donations allow the organizations to make sure they have what they need when they need it.

Below is a list of organizations currently running disaster relief programs in Florida, Texas, and the Virgin Islands for communities affected by Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma.

All Hands – a volunteer-based non-profit organization that addresses the immediate and long-term needs of communities impacted by natural disasters. All Hands has an active response program for both Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Harvey. www.hands.org (A+ rating from CharityWatch.org)

Global Giving – largest global crowdfunding organization that disperses funds to locally-driven and vetted organizations within communities that are in need. Global Giving hosts numerous projects for crowdfunding all over the world and including disaster relief for Hurricane Harvey, Hurricane Irma, and Mexico Earthquake. www.globalgiving.org

Foundation Beyond Belief – Humanist charity that promotes secular volunteering and responsible charitable giving. Founded in 2009, Foundation Beyond Belief has funds set up for both Hurricane Irma and Harvey recovery. www.foundationbeyondbelief.org

Hand in Hand Hurricane Relief Fund – a benefit organized by Comic Relief, a non-profit public charity. Initially promoted as a telethon with a long list of celebrity appearances and performances, the fund is still accepting donations online via a purchase of Hand in Hand merchandise and direct donations. www.handinhand2017.com (Comic Relief has an A+ rating from CharityWatch.org)

Team Rubicon – a volunteer-driven non-profit organization that unites the skills and experiences of veterans with first responders to rapidly deploy emergency response teams across the country. Currently deployed in Texas and Florida. www.teamrubiconusa.org (A- rating from CharityWatch.org)

Operation Supply Drop – Primarily focused on delivering “Video Game Care Packages Downrange” to deployed troops overseas, the veteran based non-profit organization is fundraising to send their volunteers to Texas. www.fundraise.operationsupplydrop.org/campaign/osd-hurricane-harvey-impact-fund/c143538

Greater Houston Community Fund – A broad-based relief fund established by Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner. https://ghcf.org/hurricane-relief/

Houston Humane Society – among other local animal shelters (Houston SPCA, San Antonio Humane Society) the Humane Society is taking donations in the effort to supply care and shelter for pets in the area affected by Hurricane Harvey: www.houstonhumane.org/giving

The Miami Foundation – the non-profit has put together The Hurricane Relief Fund to support recovery and rebuilding work driven by organizations on the ground, Irma Caribbean Strong Relief Fund to support relief efforts in small Caribbean island nations and territories, Irma Community Recovery Fund to support relief efforts in marginalized communities, ensuring residents in poverty have access to critical services and resources. www.miamifoundation.org/relief/

Greater Miami Jewish Federation – The Federation is accepting donations and notes that 100 percent of all contributions will be used to help Hurricane Irma victims. www.jewishmiami.org/gift/Irma

Catholic Charities – The Archdiocese of Miami is taking financial donations through its Catholic Charities to assist victims in the Florida Keys, Caribbean, and the Virgin Islands. One hundred percent of the donations will go toward Hurricane Irma relief efforts. www.ccadm.org

United Way of Miami-Dade – the non-profit organization is collecting donations through Operation Helping Hands, which works with a network of nonprofits across the country, to support relief efforts for both Hurricane Irma and Harvey. www.unitedwaymiami.org

Food for the Poor – is one of the largest international relief and development organizations in the U.S. The non-profit is accepting donations to support rushing emergency supplies to Caribbean Islands destroyed by Hurricane Irma. www.foodforthepoor.org

Bridge to Hope – provides services and programs designed to bridge the gap left by public assistance programs, to raise the quality of life and standard of living for South Florida’s vulnerable communities affected by Hurricane Irma i.e. elderly, chronically ill, homeless and low-income households. To donate visit www.bridgetohope.net

Early Learning Children’s Foundation – is committed to helping child care providers receive recovery resources so they can get back on their feet as soon as possible in the wake of widespread damage caused by Hurricane Irma. www.elcfoundation.net

Photo by Neil Thomas on Unsplash