Fresno is a city of many qualities. It holds the essence of a small, rural community in the Central Valley; yet, its population ranks at the top of the list of big cities in California. Although I currently attend Fresno State, a four year institution, I’m also taking courses at a local community college–something that is not altogether uncommon for students to do.  In order to do this, I must verify that the course is transferable. Once I register for the appropriate course to receive credit at Fresno State, I wait patiently for the first day of instruction. I must not forget to purchase my parking pass for the semester. Pay attention in class. Do my homework and study. These are all things I do once, twice, or until the semester is over. Please keep in mind that the fall semester is usually from mid-August to mid-December.

During my commutes between schools, I notice one thing that seems to remain constant, and in some cases increases–the level of poverty in the area. I get off of CA-Highway 41 and under the bridge, I see a homeless individual. Just down the street there is a man asking for donations accompanied by his loyal dog. It is a comfortable 75 degrees at 6pm however the sun is setting. Temperatures will drop, which is typical of a fall afternoon in the city of Fresno. Sure, it is not below freezing temperature. There is a light breeze this afternoon and the weather forecast I just checked on my smartphone says the temperatures will be at a low of 48 degrees Fahrenheit.  I can put on a sweater or jump into bed if it starts to feel to cold. But, I cannot say that about everyone else.

I was fighting sleep in my two hour math class. I have an insane amount of homework due tomorrow at 9:30 in the morning. I just want to get home. The man standing out there two hours ago with his dog is now gone. Another man is crossing the street pushing a cart full of recyclables and what appear to be his personal belongings. This man also has a dog, but this one is not on a leash. It is crossing the street in a straight line without any instructions from his owner. It is apparent this is not its first time crossing a street. I want to tell myself that he’s already had something to eat and must be headed somewhere warm. Unfortunately, that is not necessarily the case. It is most probable that the man is going to bed hungry in a cold place.

The city of Fresno not only ranks high in the state, but is also negatively scrutinized nationwide for high poverty levels. If I was a licensed engineer and in a world without financial constraints, I would use my knowledge to build a large structure with rooms, food and blankets. Just like the math problems attempted in class, it is not that simple.

Sometimes, one person cannot fix everything on his or her own. But each person can help. We can all offer aid in many ways that do not entail attempting to tackle the problem on our own. Because no one can do it alone. Here is how. Start by identifying a need in your community.  Be brave.  Be willing to take action.

The greater Fresno community has several organizations that provide resources for the homeless.  Just to name a few:

As the holiday season approaches, how will you give back to your community? Do you have a traditional organization you volunteer with?

~Ambassador Juan