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Mayor Jerry Dyer shares vision for Fresno


Former Police Chief unveils projects, programs

After 18 years as Fresno’s police chief, and 40 years serving in law enforcement, Jerry Dyer takes on his next challenge: serving as mayor of Fresno.

Homelessness an on-going issue

[/media-credit] Mayor Jerry Dyer entered office in January 2021 after serving as Fresno’s police chief for 18 years.

Dyer swore into office on Jan 7, 2021, and immediately recognized homelessness as a primary issue in Fresno. While chronic homelessness has long been present in Fresno, the coronavirus pandemic saw a significant increase, as much as 45 percent.

The first step in a process of ending homelessness is Project Off-Ramp, which aims to move people living on freeway embankments into temporary housing. Dyer says 183 homeless people have been housed to date.

Project Off-Ramp is designed not to displace people in the neighborhoods but to place them into motels and housing, and that’s what we’ve been doing,” Dyer said. “It’s an off-ramp from the freeway and a life of homelessness and an on-ramp to housing services and a productive life.”

By no means is Dyer the first mayor to take on homelessness in Fresno. In part due to the pandemic and lack of affordable housing, a solution remains elusive. But in an interview via Zoom, Dyer says he cannot afford to ignore the issue, as poverty stands in the way of his vision for an inclusive, unified Fresno.

“I’ve heard from a number of people in Fresno that the issue they’ve felt is most important to our community is that of the homeless,” Dyer said. “Right now, if you look around Fresno, we have prosperity, but sometimes it’s not for everyone.  We have neighborhoods that are beautiful, but for the most part in our city we have lost our curb appeal. What we’re doing with the homeless contributes to our vision.”

For Dyer, homelessness is not so much a matter of lost curb appeal, but a humanitarian issue. He sees maintaining human dignity as a crucial element of any assistance program offered to homeless people.

“It’s easy to just say, ‘displace the homeless. Move them all. Move them to another city. Put them on a bus and tell them to leave Fresno.’ I’ve heard all those things over the years,” Dyer said. “The reality is the people that are out there on the streets could be our mom and dad, could be an uncle, a grandfather, could be a relative, could be one of our children.”

Dyer tweeted during Project Off-Ramp.

“So the compassionate, the humane, the Christian thing to do, for us, is to be compassionate,” Dyer continued. “We can love them right where they’re at in life, but not be willing to leave them where they’re at.”

Youth involvement

[/media-credit] Dyer cleans up trash during a Beautify Fresno event, March 13, 2021.

Dyer states his vision for Fresno as: “An inclusive, prosperous, beautiful city where people take pride in their neighborhood and their community, and a government that listens, keeps its promises and is owned by the people.” This vision obviously applies to policies with homelessness and economic aid, but Dyer extends the idea to youth involvement as well.

“Oftentimes people say the youth of today are the leaders of tomorrow,” Dyer said. “I certainly agree with that, but I also believe that the youth of today are the leaders of today.”

Dyer is starting a Youth Advisory Council, which will include high schoolers from across the city. Members will have a direct voice into government decisions made in the city. Dyer says listening to youth is a priority because it lends to inclusivity.

“If we’re truly going to be inclusive as a city,” Dyer said. It’s not enough just to listen to adults. It’s important to listen to people on the south end as well as the north end, west of 99, people of color, people of different faiths.”

Dyer met with students in a youth Town Hall, March 6.

Three months into his term, Dyer and his team have housed hundreds of homeless people, involved a fleet of volunteers for the Beautify Fresno campaign, and met with youth, community leaders and national government officials. But the work is only just started. Dyer’s long-term goals include increasing the amount of affordable housing, revitalize Downtown Fresno, and involving students in city affairs.

“I want to be remembered as a mayor that listens, a mayor that kept his promises,” Dyer said. “I want to be remembered as a mayor that changed the trajectory of our city for the better. That’s important to me. I want to be remembered as the mayor that was focused on uniting people, bringing unity to a community.”

For more on Fresno news, read Beautify Fresno unites community voices through cleanup projects and PROMO: Valley Children’s annual Kids Day begins online, March 9.

Bryce Foshee can be reached via Twitter @brycer_f and via email.

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  • J

    Jakob RiekerApr 16, 2021 at 9:55 am

    Well written article Bryce. It is nice to see that our Mayor is out in the public getting his hands dirty and trying to solve problems.

  • B

    Bryson GrahamApr 16, 2021 at 8:43 am

    Great article Bryce! That must’ve been cool to interview Jerry Dyer.