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Voices in the Community

“…when people do speak up and take action against their slumlord, and nothing is done by our city who is supposed to hold slumlords accountable, at a very young age children begin to learn to believe that they are voiceless. It marginalizes individuals and eventually divides communities. And that affects our entire society, when members of our community have become apathetic and hopeless.” – Ariana Martinez Lott

As the above quote suggests, Fresno is a city that is fostering hopelessness and apathy within its residents. As slumlords continue to operate without repercussions, the community learns to accept living standards that they know they don’t deserve to suffer with.

Artie Padilla, Executive Director of Every Neighborhood Partnership (Top Left)

Artie Padilla, Executive Director of Every Neighborhood Partnership (Artie: top left)

But luckily, there are people out there working to improve the community and stand against the things that are afflicting it. Artie Padilla, who has been with the non-profit organization Every Neighborhood Partnership since January of 2008 and currently serves as its executive director, is one of those people. Ariana Martinez Lott, a former ENP Parent Involvement Director who continues to engage extensively with members of the community and organizes activities for children during their school vacation, is another. Both of them are community advocates who agreed to speak with No More Slumlords about the experiences they’ve gained throughout their time in Fresno.

Neighborhood cleanup project in the Susan B. Anthony neighborhood. (Adult in red shirt on the far right)

Neighborhood cleanup project in the Susan B. Anthony neighborhood. (Ariana: adult in maroon shirt on the far right)

Both Padilla and Lott are very familiar with slum housing. Padilla explained that through his work and the relationships he’s built with residents, he’s been invited into homes that were greatly neglected by landlords. Lott also noted that her relationships in the community have shown her just how awful living conditions and landlord neglect can get. She pointed out that she knows many mothers who are raising their children in homes with no working air conditioning, with massive damage due to flooding, and sometimes in no home – in one situation, a family lost their home to a fire that wasn’t their fault in the slightest, but was unable to get their security deposit back. That situation took months to resolve itself – months of the family suffering. In all of these situations, Lott said that “parents are trying to provide a better community for their children, yet they cannot achieve that in their own home.”

Neighborhood parents part of the clean up.

Neighborhood parents part of the clean up.

But both agreed that the issue with slum housing goes beyond the exterior – even beyond the physical health issues tenants suffer. “It affects our entire psyche,” Lott said in regards to living in slum housing. “…when we live in dehumanizing circumstances, over time we are led to believe that we do not deserve any better.”

Padilla had similar things to say, citing the toll issues like neglected plumbing, damage or absent carpeting, and electrical concerns can have on an individual’s emotional well-being as well as their health. He also had an idea for how slumlords are able to affect people on a macro scale – how they’re able to flourish in Fresno despite the obvious damage they’re causing. “Fresno is a city of refuge,” Padilla said. “It’s easy for a slumlord to thrive in Fresno when the recipe of a constant flow of lower income families are coming into our city.” People come to Fresno to seek safety and security – to find a better home to raise their children in. But, as Padilla noted, these people often become prime targets for slumlords instead.

City of Fresno allows slumlords to advertise substandard units for rent.

City of Fresno allows slumlords to advertise substandard units for rent.

City of Fresno allows slumlords to advertise substandard units for rent.

City of Fresno allows slumlords to advertise substandard units for rent.

It’s clear that Fresno is suffering – that our community is suffering. Every day we hear more stories from people who are struggling with slum housing, and so every day the matter becomes increasingly pressing. Action needs to be taken. When asked what needs to happen within the city, Padilla notes that the city needs to do its part, but that our community must also continue to come together and “provide alternatives for the families that are forced to go to slumlord locations.” He advocates for creating a market of healthy homes, essentially running slumlords out of business or forcing them to improve their product. Lott agreed that laws need to be enforced, but that the community also needs to come together – that every one of us has a responsibility to assist in this widespread issue.

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Lott is right – all of us should help those who need it. To those out there who are feeling hopeless and apathetic about the situations slumlords and slum housing are putting them in, know that there are others out there who are taking notice. People like Artie Padilla and Ariana Martinez Lott are – people who care about their community and continue to advocate for the rights of the people they’ve been able to meet in their work. With the help of community figures like these two, it’s possible for Fresno to come together and stand against slumlords and the hurt they’ve caused.


Share this story with your city council representative via email, Facebook or on Twitter. This is a systemic issue in our city that needs to be address. To find your council member, visit the council locator.

District 1: Esmeralda Soria
Phone: (559) 621-8000
Email: District1@fresno.gov

District 2: Council Member Steve Brandau
Phone: (559) 621-8000
Email: District2@fresno.gov

District 3: Council Member Oliver L. Baines
Phone: (559) 621-8000
Email: District3@fresno.gov

District 4: Council Member Paul Caprioglio
Phone: (559) 621-8000
Email: District4@fresno.gov

District 5: Council Member Sal Quintero
Phone: (559) 621-8000
Email: District5@fresno.gov

District 6: Council Member Lee Brand
Phone: (559) 621-8000
Email: District6@fresno.gov

District 7: Council Member Clint Olivier
Phone: (559) 621-8000
Email: District7@fresno.gov