Shared Humanity

By Faith in Community

There has been much press about the lists on which Fresno appears. Many of our neighborhoods suffer from the nation’s worst concentrated poverty and are most at risk in California for numerous health problems. This is unacceptable.

On May 31, Faith in Community (FIC) had a gathering to unveil a Prophetic Vision. People from all parts of Fresno—representing several faith communities—came together to hear our new “God Goals.” These are seemingly impossible goals, but they are what we need to make Fresno a more just community. We have come together to address these issues as theological and moral issues and not just social ones. The overarching goal is for “equality and dignity for all people in all places.”

Fresno is one widespread and diverse city. Moving north does not leave the problems behind. There are clear reasons why it makes sense to work together to address our needs.

Our shared humanity says that healthcare should be accessible to everyone. Doing away with the Medically Indigent Services Program (MISP) may look like a way to reduce costs, but in reality it simply shifts costs to hospitals and insurance premiums. More important, it puts Fresno at risk for the spread of infectious diseases.

The city needs to compel owners of abandoned properties to maintain them rather than allow them to fester, causing health and safety concerns while devaluing property everywhere in the city. Fresno needs the revenue from these properties and our people need affordable housing.

The City Council is looking to limit the number of payday lenders flooding working poor neighborhoods. (Their excessive interest rates are often more than 450% APR.) Currently, there are 66 such stores in Fresno, collectively draining more than $3.6 million from our local economy annually.

We need to work to reform the jail and legal systems that are inhumanely overcrowded. Seventy percent of the Fresno County Jail population is being held as they await trial. This drains resources from all of our other county services.

Justice compels us to ensure public resources and investments are made in all parts of Fresno. Most of our neighborhoods south of Shaw have been neglected in favor of decades of sprawl. We expect immediate action by the city to invest in parks, high-quality public transportation and safe neighborhoods in all of Fresno.

The damning reality is that people in the 93706 zip code have a 20-year shorter life expectancy than those in more northern areas. Environmental injustice disproportionately affects poorer neighborhoods because they are so often disenfranchised. Poor air and water quality touches all of Fresno.

Violence is not something any community wants. Why not put more resources into working to change the root causes of violence than to continually spend more money on an ever-expanding police force.

Systemic racism is the underlying factor in all of the issues we are attempting to address. In the past, we have dealt with race by ignoring it. It may seem reasonable that those who profit from the inequality would want to maintain it. But is it? We are one Fresno; what touches one, touches all. In the end, our shared humanity says that when we make life better for others we make life better for ourselves.

*****

Faith in Community is a coalition of faith institutions working toward a more just, compassionate, equitable and thriving city of Fresno. For more information and to get involved in the fight against systemic racism, visit www.faithinfresno.org.

  • The Community Alliance is a monthly newspaper that has been published in Fresno, California, since 1996. The purpose of the newspaper is to help build a progressive movement for social and economic justice.

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