Guest Author: Felicia Salcido will be blogging with us due to her particular expertise in this area. She is a student of anthropology and a very capable ethnographer. The following is from her:

I began working with the homeless when I received an email from my Professor Hank Delcore, about local architects wanting to build dwellings for the homeless in Fresno. I never worked with the homeless and definitely wanted the chance to be involved with something that would help out the community.

In January I volunteered to help get a head count of the homeless. I spent my afternoon at the Poverello House. The count is done bi annually to help the city and county implement the Ten Year Plan to End Chronic Homelessness. If you did not know this already, the count will provide leaders of the county a better understanding of the number of homeless people.

The Ten Year Plan to End Chronic Homelessness was adopted because of this rapidly increasing population of displaced persons. It is about time that the city and county established that homelessness is problem, but what’s next? How does the county end homelessness in ten years? I have been given the opportunity to witness first hand how the community is responding to this plan. It is no secret that there is a need for affordable housing. Yes, it is true that housing costs are low, but it is also true that a large portion people living in Fresno County are going into foreclosure. Thus, the community needs affordable housing. Local architects of Fresno recognized the need for affordable housing and therefore designed and constructed a 350sq ft dwelling that would allow the homeless to live in. The dwellings would be built in a vacated lot in Downtown Fresno. These built dwellings would hope to reduce some of the homelessness in our city.

Where does Anthropology come in? The architects were concerned with the efficiency of living space and wanted to know what the minimum amount of space for a successful dwelling was. A mock up of the dwelling was showcased at Archop night in February and it was the jobs of the student anthropologists/ethnographers to solicit, observe, document and analyze behavioral and communicated responses to the built space. Questions in regards to the built spaced were asked, such as “What do you think about this space?” “Can you imagine yourself living in a space like this?” and “Do you know someone who this space would be perfect for?” The answers were analyzed and conclusions were drawn. The research conducted was used to drive the re-design of the space. I may have more on how the data drove re-design at a later time.

This has been my experience working with the issue of homelessness so far, I am motivated to help in anyway I can and I am privileged that Anthropology has given me this experience. What the local architects are doing is only one step to ending homelessness in Fresno, Ca and I encourage everyone to help in anyway they can. Thanks.