Did you know? Director’s Story pt. 1

22728FE7-3A1A-443C-A6C8-7DF8ACBB379F.jpegDid you know?

I would like to start sharing my story now about my experience with homelessness, what I did to survive & how hard I tried to make my homelessness Invisible to the people around me. I’ll be doing short stories periodically.

This is March 2016
Tower District
Fresno Ca

At this time I was offered a room in a back garage that was being converted into a small studio. I was already attending CMAC (Community Media Access Collaborative). How I got in is another story lol.
I was always hungry & always asking staff for food or their leftovers from lunch. One day Cesar (staff) walked in from lunch carrying a lunch bag. “I’m hungry, what we got today” I asked. “I’m sorry, it’s all gone, I was just tossing out trash” cesar said.
My stomach was like “Damnnnnnn”
I said Hangry “what do I need to do to get some food”
Cesar response “you have all the tools you need here, make a food show, then you will always eat”.
That’s exactly what I did.
I wrote my proposal for the show & got the approval to do it.
I was nervous because I needed a team to be able to put it together.
Anita (a lady at cmac & my angel) helped me on my last show UGM (that story another time) but that was at the studio. This was going to be on location. Anita and I grabbed 2 cameras & mics then walked down Fulton street and asked restaurants if we could film a food show. I asked for 4 different entrees of their best plates and we would taste test it and film as we ate and gave our opinions on food.
You see, this would benefit both of us. They would get a show on TV and I would get food to take with me.
Problem solved πŸ‘πŸΌ.

I named the TV show “Fresno Eatz”
I got a big crew to help me out and we then went out to local community owned restaurants and filmed the show.
We all ate goodπŸ€—.

This photo was at one location in Tower district. As you see, I look far from “homeless”. I would get ready in the bathroom at CMAC. I would get my hair and make up done by a friend at CMAC & dress the “I’m not homeless” part to stay Invisible about my homelessness.
I did this because, if someone knew I was homeless, they would treat me differently, so I would hide it as best as I could. Doing that drained me. Why couldn’t I just be me?
Why couldn’t I just be an individual that needed help.
When people started to find out, they would ask me if I were a drug addict or alcoholic. I responded “No”. That’s when they assumed I wanted to be homeless. πŸ˜“
That’s why I started interviewing our street families so the community can understand who we are and why we became homeless.

That’s how “Fresno Eatz” tv show started & how I was able to get food to survive.

Thank you CMAC for not throwing me out when you found me hiding out in your building. Thank you Cesar for sitting and teaching me the skills I needed. Thank you CMAC crew for all their hard work on set. Thank you Anita, you did so much and was my rock during my toughest times. Thank you Myisha for making me look good πŸ€— hair & makeup.
Thank you Michael for helping me escape my homeless reality. He is another Angel that helped me through my tough times.

Trying to survive homelessness in Fresno Ca is very hard. Trying to hide & fake your not homeless is exhausting.
Never judge a book by its cover.

We are Homeless
We are Human
We are Not Invisible
~Dez~
#fresnoeatz #homelessinfresno #homelesslivesmatter #tvshow #shoplocal #supportlocal #howisurvivedhunger
#endhunger #endhomlessness

Toys and Joys for Girls and Boys

WANI is again taking out toys to children living on Motel drive for our 4th Annual Toys and Joys for Girls and Boys!

December 21 is the day Santa delivers toys throughout the Motels on Motel Drive. We drive from location to location and spend about 30 min or so gift giving, taking pics with Santa, and serving hot chocolateΒ  and pastries.Β  After the delivery on Motel drive, if we have enough toys we will drive to an apartment complex and bless the children there. This is what makes the day so long, but well worth it!

Donation Drop Off Locations:

St. James Church, 4147 East Dakota, Fresno, Mon.-Fri. from 9:30am-1:30pm, 559-439-5011

The Big Red Church (First Congregational Church), 2131 Van Ness Avenue, Fresno, Mon.-Fri. from 9:00am-3:00p.m., and Sun. 11:30am-1:30p.m.

Rio Mesa Insurance, 3134 Willow Street, Suite #102, Clovis, 9:00am-3:00pm

Regency Properties, 331 West Shields Ave, Fresno, 9:00am-3:30pm

Gift Wrapping Parties

Wrapping parties are December 14 and 20. We wrap all the gifts and organize them in gender and age groups, while drinking hot chocolate and cider with delicious desserts.

If you are interested in helping deliver toys to homes also please let us know at info@wanif.org

Donations can also be made for the purchase of toys here:

We Are Not Invisible launched our annual Toys and Joy for Girls and Boys drive to take toys to homeless children along Motel Drive because these children often are not included in other toys drives, due to their parents inability to participate in the other programs.Β 

During our other outreach efforts, I’d see the amount of children living in motels and in the streets, and I was shocked to find out that they were not receiving gifts for the holidays, This is who I thought would receive the gifts that I donated to organizations that held toy drives. I called around to many churches and organizations and asked if any go out into the community to deliver gifts. I found out that they were more than happy to add the children to the list to receive a gift but they did not deliver gifts. I knew myself that these families were homeless and living in motels. They did not have transportation to go to churches or other toy outreach locations and definitely did not have enough bus money to go to and from any toy donations spots.”

Toy drives often exclude children of certain ages, as the cut off age is usually 14, leaving out those who are 15-17.Β 

This inspired the Toys and Joys For Girls and Boys toy drive and outreach.

Β I was really shocked about this, but instead of being sad, I decided that, instead of donating the gifts elsewhere, I could go deliver them myself. So, I called a couple of friends with friends and set up a day to drive from motel to motel and deliver Christmas gifts to all the children and teens. I had a “Santa” volunteer (kids love Santa) and I had a couple of local motorcycle clubs volunteer to ride their bikes along with us (kids love motorcycles). So, with Santa, motorcycles, and gifts, the kids had a very happy, blessed day to remember.Β 

We also had some of the community reach out and join us in our holiday toy caravan to deliver food and clothing. This is what community holiday spirit is about to me. It was a beautiful sight to see the amount of people from many different areas of Fresno come together for our forgotten community.

Since then, we have continued to spearhead the effort annually, connecting with families we see throughout the year.

We encourage you to donate to the age groups often overlooked: children up to three and teenagers. When people donate, it’s usually for children ages four through twelve.Β  I’m often asked why we include the older teens. I say “why not?” These teens are homeless. Also, they have a huge responsibility on them. They help cook, clean, and raise their siblings, too. They deserve to be appreciated in every way. They are also our future.

Β 

Vigil for Brother Rick

Please join us Wednesday, November 13 at 5:30pm. to honor and share memories of my street family member I was proud to call my brother, Rick Limas. Services will be across the street from the Sands Motel, which is at 1441 North Golden State, at Pine and Golden State.

I met Brother Rick back in 2016 when he first became homeless. He always would say a prayer over me, give me spiritual protection while out in the streets. When I met both Tom & Rick I had my own black alley I was going down. These 2 Angels appeared in my life and gave me Faith. So many stories and wisdom I can share about the both of them. But I cant see through the constant flow of tears.
This week has been one of my hardest. I didn’t have time to heal let alone breath. You see, you do not have to be blood to be family, your just family and that’s it. And that’s how my brothers were, My Family. They gave wisdom, protection, unconditional love, brotherly advice lol & would clothe and feed anyone cold or hungry even if it was their last piece of bread or only coat.

One of Brother Ricks wishes while homeless was for a drumming circle to come out to one of the feedings, He said ” My spirit needs it”, he would talk about the war and battles being fought out there in the streets at night and how so many souls are lost and need healing. He said “Sister, if no one will come , all I need is some wood and buck skin and I will make my own”. No one ever came and i never got that wood and buck skin.

I am asking for all brothers & sisters to come out and honor a warrior who took care of the Invisible people in the streets while he was unhoused andΒ  housed. He was a Warrior in so many other ways and deserves so much more. Please Share this, I’m hoping we get a drumming circle to honor our Native Brother and give him that wish he so deserved.

Vigil for Tower Tom November 8

We welcome the community to join us tonight for a vigil is being held for Thomas Pena, who called himself Tower Tom, Friday evening, November 8, 6:00 at the canal near Belmont and Fulton.

While he didn’t have a house, Tower District was his home. Tower Tom was not just any individual on the streets in the Tower District. He was every part of the Tower District. For over ten years that he resided in the Tower District Community, he cleaned the community by sweeping it with a handmade broom or a Dollar Tree broom or a leaf blower. He also picked up at least 50 needles a day trying to protect children from seeing them or pick them up accidentally. He did a lot for his community and he was targeted also.”

his vigil is also to raise awareness about our street family members who are out here; how many of them are true angels; how many of them truly care about our community; how many of them want to see our streets clean and drug free. He was that man. He was that man. He was somebody who cared about his house and his house was the Tower District.

November Potluck in the Park

Enjoy a delicious Β lunch with our street family on Saturday, November 23, 11am-2pm at Eaton Plaza, the park next to the Fresno Water Tower (map Fresno Water Tower for direction) and Downtown Fresno Library. The lunch starts at noon.

 

Potluck in the Park is the 3rd Sat of every month and is an opportunity to provide community and friendship with our street family meals by sharing in a meal and conversation. The event is fun and casual and children and leashed pets are welcome! We invite the community to cook a homemade meal and come sit with us as we eat great food and enjoy good conversations with our street families.

For this month, several food trucks will be on hand to provide food.

For this months events, we need donations of these items:

  • Plates, forks, and cutlery
  • soft drinks and other drinks

And, of course, we welcome you to come, help serve, and enjoy a meal with our street family

With your support we can share a meal with our forgotten community.

To volunteer, donate, or inquire about Potluck in the Park please email us at Info@wanif.org
If you would like to donate, you can by dropping off items needed or donate to our PayPal

 

 

October Potluck in the Park

Spend a beautiful October morning enjoying lunch with our street family! Join us in participating in our October Potluck in the Park on Saturday, October 19, 11am-2pm at Eaton Plaza, the park next to the Fresno Water Tower (map Fresno Water Tower for direction) and Downtown Fresno Library.

We need your Help!
For this months events, we need donations of these items:

  • Beef/pork ribs
  • Tri-tip
  • Homemade macaroni and cheese
  • green bean casserole
  • desserts
  • beverages

With your help we can!!!...A few ways to help!

1, Donate an item needed
2,Β  Cook an item needed
3.Β  Donate monetarily for the purchase of the items needs

And, of course, we welcome you to come, help serve, and enjoy a meal with our street family

With your support we can Share a meal with our forgotten community.

Potluck in the Park is the 3rd Sat of every month. We invite the community to cook a homemade meal and come sit with us as we eat great food and enjoy good conversations with our street families.

To volunteer, donate, or inquire about Potluck in the Park please email us at Info@wanif.org
If you would like to cook a dish or provide a dish, contact Irma at 614-8001.
If you would like to donate, you can by dropping off items needed or donate to our PayPal

 

September Potluck in the Park

We welcome you to our September Potluck in the Park on Saturday, September 21, 11am-2pm at Eaton Plaza, the park next to the Fresno Water Tower (map Fresno Water Tower for direction) and Downtown Fresno Library.

See and share our Facebook event invite here

Potluck in the Park is the 3rd Sat of every month. We invite the community to cook a homemade meal and come sit with us as we eat great food and enjoy good conversations with our street families.
This months theme is Hispanic Food.
If you would like to cook a dish and join us, you are more than welcome! To volunteer or contribute food or other items for the potluck, contact Irma at 614-8001.
If you would like to donate, you can by dropping off items needed or donate to our PayPal

 

We would love for you to come join us!

Potluck

Services for Baby Zar’ie

Please join Akifa, Denny, and Naszariah as they honor and say goodbye to Baby Zar’ie πŸ’œπŸ’›πŸ’œ

The family would like to keep the colors bright and ask no dark colors worn. She said, “It’s a celebration of the time we had with her.”

Services will be held at the First Congregational Church (The Big Red Church), 2131 North Van Ness, then we will be at Mountain View Celebration for graveside services.

The family would like you to join them back at the family would like to invite everyone back to the Big Red Church for repast.

πŸ’œπŸ¦‹πŸ’›πŸ¦‹πŸ’œπŸ¦‹πŸ’›πŸ¦‹πŸ’œπŸ¦‹πŸ’›πŸ¦‹πŸ’œπŸ¦‹πŸ’›πŸ¦‹

Rest In Heaven Baby Zar’ie

#babyzar’ie #homelesslivesmatter #restinheaven

Help Needed to Fund Services for Baby Zar’ie

We are raising money for memorial and funeral services for Baby Naszar’ie, which will be held on Friday, August 2, starting at 10am at The First Congregational Church (Big Red Church, 2131 North Van Ness Avenue). Your help is needed and welcome to meet our goal.

We are asking for you help to give Baby Zar’ie a proper burial. Her mother and father went through so much to try to keep their children safe, only to lose a precious Angel that they only got to be with for three months.

The community has been gracious and kind, so we are almost halfway to our goal.

To donate, go to our Go Fund Me page here or donate directly to Fresno Funeral Home.

Background:
Akifa and Denny, her parents, became homeless in October 2018 in Fresno, CA. She looked for help from a local shelter for youth (18-24). At this time she was three months pregnant with her second child. Her first daughter at the time was one year-old. Mother, father (disabled), and daughter were place in the shelter in the end of October 2018. In November 2018, she was asked to leave the shelter with her child. With no where to go she was sleeping on the streets of Fresno, on a waiting list for available housing.

During a storm, We Are Not Invisible found Akifa and child in the rain,  tucked into a sleeping bag trying to stay warm. We immediately took action and contacted the shelter that kicked her out and raised funds for a Motel room for her family until the shelter would have availability again. When she found out it might be a couple weeks, Akifa and her family was sent out of state to a friends in order to keep her daughter safe.  Akifa and family returned  back to Fresno when they received a voucher for an apartment. With the lack of low income housing in Fresno, the battle to find a place was very difficult. Meanwhile, Akifa had to be back on the streets while still waiting for an opening at the shelter. This went on for months, with many agencies and organizations trying to find shelter or permanent place for Akifa and family went unfound.

In March 2019, Akifa and family were taken to Fresno Rescue Mission for shelter. Here, the father was put in one shelter and mother and child in another.

April 3, 2019 Akifa had a C-section with her second child. Five days after birth, Akifa was sent back to the shelter with both babies. 
During their stay, they were asked to leave at 8 am and not return until 7 pm. This left Akifa once again in the streets with now two children.
We Are Not Invisible asked for Akifa to be able to rest due to a high risk surgery as the doctor’s orders stated that she required six to eight weeks bed rest. 
This request was not accepted and Akifa had to continuously leave everyday to struggle with the pain of surgery, feed and keep warm two children as she would walk the streets of Fresno waiting for 7 p.m. to come.
April 24, 2019  Akifa was walking downtown Fresno, after being told to leave the shelter for the day, when she collapsed. The ambulance was called and Akifa was rushed to the hospital. The hospital found that Akifa had blood clots in her lungs and was close to dying. This was found to be the result of her walking everyday with a one year-old and a three week-old (by this time), a car seat, stroller and two bags with clothes and food for the kids. 
May 1, 2019, Akifa was released from the hospital. The shelter where she had been staying stated she could return, but she was only allowed one child. Akifa reached out to friends for help again. One shelter had given a week voucher at a motel. She made a choice to let friends take care of the children until she was allowed back into the shelter or found an apartment.
June 18, 2019, the youth shelter called and had the family room open. Akifa and family went to the shelter. During her stay at the shelter, she became concerned about the unsanitary situation and having to leave the shelter in this heat; 100  degrees plus. She was told these concerns would be addressed. No one returned calls or allowed her to stay indoors with the children. 
July 13, 2019,  11 a.m. Akifa was finally transported to a motel.
July 14, 2019, 8:30 a.m. Akifa woke to her baby cold. She immediately called 911 and preformed CPR until the Ambulance arrived.
The EMT & Hospital tried to bring Baby Zar’ie back.
8:45 a.m. Baby Zar’ie was pronounced deceased.

I am asking for you help to give Baby Zar’ie a proper burial. This mother and father went through so much to try to keep their children safe, only to lose a precious Angel that they only got to be with for three months.

Naszar’ie Maray Butler
Sunrise – April 3 2019
Sunset – July 14 2019

Give A Basket Full Of Love- WANI 1st Annual Easter Drive!

Help bring a basket full of love to homeless children on Motel Drive.

We Are Not Invisible is launching our first annual Easter Basket Drive for underprivileged children in an effort to make their Easter bright and fulfiling. Help us by donating pre-made baskets or items to add to baskets.

Drop Locations:

713 East Andrews Avenue, Fresno 93704

4946 East Yale Avenue, Suite 101-B, Fresno 93727

337 Ramona Street, Orange Cove 93446

5420 West Palo Alto Avenue, Fresno 93722

1560 Fulton Street #104, Fresno 93721

**Donations can also be purchased and sent to We Are Not Invisible through our Basket Of Love Amazon wish list here!**

Donation Wish List:
baskets/plastic buckets
Easter grass
plastic eggs
wrapped candy
Peeps marshmallows
small toys
bubbles
jump ropes
kids’ arts and crafts supplies
small stuffer animals
coloring/ activity books
games/flash cards
cellophane sheets/rolls
monetary donations

Easter Basket wrapping party- Saturday, April 13, 12-5pm at Preferred Medical Solutions, 2505 West Shaw Avenue, Suite 150

Easter Basket Outreach- Saturday, April 20, 8:00am. Sign up to get meet up information.

Sign up to volunteer at Good For All here!!

Click here to download the flyer below (to print or share online)