REFLECTION of Walk #21, Year 2. Downtown Fresno. On Saturday, February 27, 2016, 8:30 a.m., a dozen Mindfulness Walkers met on the Van Ness sidewalk in front of Bitwise Industries, downtown Fresno’s high tech, super hip technology headquarters, the essence of which is captured on the 3-story mural. This FMW route was different than all other routes because it was not through residential neighborhoods. This route was chosen because of the upcoming Fulton Mall groundbreaking and the recently announced development plans south of Chukchansi Park, plans which include residential living spaces.
The Route: Walkers headed west along the south border of the ballpark. They saw the open patio seating of Sequoia Brewing Company, and just behind that, in an industrial alley, a person slept in a rolled up carpet. Across the tracks and along open fields to Ventura and G St., walkers met a group of men from the Fresno Rescue Mission (FRM) who gladly talked to us, and told us about their recovery and the work they were doing for the FRM. The men told us that FRM was moving just across the street because of the high speed rail coming through.
From the corner of Ventura and G, walkers could see a new 2-story building of the Fresno Housing Authority apartments, surrounded by a rod-iron fence and heavy security gates. The sidewalks were crowded with people and their belongings – some milling about, others sitting, or sleeping on the sidewalk. One woman was sitting on a suitcase up against the rod-iron fence and putting on make up with the mirror of a small compact of face powder. Walkers met two friendly men who were parking attendants for Poverello House.
Crowds gathered around long tables in the street, and volunteers from the Korean Methodist Church dished up soup and snacks. One volunteer was handing out ball caps, which were very popular. A group of people in matching shirts from Cornerstone Church told us they came here to pray with people. They led a prayer with the group of Mindfulness Walkers right in the middle of Santa Clara street.
One walker talked to a man, Joe, who said he was thankful it wasn’t raining. He knew Fresno needs the rain, but he was glad not to be wet and cold for a change. Walkers talked to a woman who was inside the rod-iron fence of the apartments. She said she was glad to be on the inside because she had lived on the streets for 16 years. One FMWalker talked to a man who said that on Monday, February 29, people won’t be allowed to congregate on Santa Clara Street between Poverello and the FHA apartments. They will be asked/forced to disperse.
Walkers headed back on Ventura, then along Van Ness. At the corner of Ventura and Van Ness, a two-story duplex stands out among all the auto repair and industrial businesses. A man on the front porch said he had lived there 20 years. FMWalkers chatted with a store clerk using a bull-horn to announce the good deals at the thrift shops and sidewalk clothing sales. Walkers saw new apartments with a 24-hour Urban Fitness Club on the ground floor. Beautiful metal artwork decorated the building. A pawn shop had Harley Davidson motorcycles in the front windows.
Passing by Bitwise again, the front doors were open and walkers strolled through the spacious lobby looking through glass windows into modern work spaces and conference rooms. Two men were talking in a back room that was still under construction. A long wall held a bar/counter underneath a full length white board with markers. Large screen TVs were playing CNN and ESPN. Two bicycles were hanging from wall-mounted bike racks. See photo album Walk #21 Yr 2. for pictures of the Bitwise ground floor lobby.
At the corner of VanNess and Inyo, FMWalkers met two men waiting to cross the street who told us they were visiting from Oakland and were here for the Tattoo Convention at the Fairgrounds. They were staying at the Super 8 and made a comment that poked fun at the accommodations.
Walkers strolled through courthouse park, looking closely at the many large art pieces and statues. People were milling about with shopping carts of belongings, a dozen or so people waiting at the FAX bus stop, and a visually impaired woman using a cane to navigate the bus stop area.
Walkers strolled Fulton Mall, in the shadow of tall buildings while noticing the trees, artwork, banks, government offices, signs in Spanish, clothing stores, and restaurants. Many were closed on Saturday or permanently boarded up. There were some people on the mall, a couple pushing a stroller, men in western hats sitting on the benches, women speaking Spanish and holding the hand of a young child. Walkers ended the walk by gathering in front of the Fresno Housing Authority office building to share our observations.
Walkers expressed a sadness about the cirumstances of so many people. While this is not a residential neighborhood, those streets are their homes, even if they are outside. Walkers felt uncomfortable just passing through, looking, taking photos, because it would be like going into someone’s home. It’s not just a street and sidewalk, but these places seemed like their homes. Walkers said that they felt more comfortable once they talked to people. Once they talked to someone, the uncomfortable feeling went away.
Walkers said they were hopeful and excited about the downtown revitalization and believe that the revitalization could be the watershed to economic revitalization of Fresno. Some Walkers had mixed feelings about the Fulton Mall demolition. Walkers shared memories of going there as children.
Walkers wondered how the many desperate people living near there and hanging out on the mall would be absorbed into the revitalization efforts, or would they be driven somewhere else… In addition to desperate poverty, there’s so much evidence of mental illness and drug addiction. Walkers asked, “Where will these people go?” Can a revitalized downtown and these people co-exist together? And “What can we do to help?”
Walkers summarized the walk in a word or phrase:
Old and new together
Hope and hopeless
So many people in desperate circumstances
Homeless people sleeping
Prayer in the street
Train tracksDetail of glass street lamps on four corners of one intersection
Car repair shops
Expensive car lot with high chain link fence around it
Contrasts of very new and very distressed
Bitwise–hip and cool and relevant and timely; the future
New FHA apartments
Beautiful details on the lamp posts and historic buildings
Fresh flower wreath at memorial to fallen law enforcement officers in courthouse park
Trees and art on Fulton
Peeve’s Restaurant on Fulton
Man passed out on grass under Renzi sculpture
Sounds: Trains, dogs barking, hammering/construction, music, birds, welding in warehouse, car tires on tracks, tire repair shop sounds, music in cars. Music on phones. Hellos from people. Shop owner on bullhorn, Spanish language music on Fulton.
Smells: Burrito, cup o noodles, coffee, donuts
Walkers begin and end each walk with this idea:
These are our brothers and sisters in Fresno.
All of our lives and futures are tied together.
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