The Hidalgo community sits just east of downtown Fresno in a diverse section of the city. According to Hidalgo Elementary School, 79% of the students are Hispanic, 12% are Asian, 7% are Black and the additional 2% are white or bi-racial. 100% of the students qualify for the free and reduced lunch program. Hidalgo school has a 70% transition rate meaning that 7 out of 10 students will move out of the community during the school year.
The southern boundary of Hidalgo is a mile-long stretch of Belmont Ave that has a long history of human trafficking and is frequented by sex buyers. Young girls are recruited by traffickers as they walk to school with promises of money and freedom. Young boys watch and hear the promises of power, control, and money as they see these examples on a daily basis of what it means to supposedly be a man.
The community is made up of hard-working families who work 2-3 jobs in order to provide basic necessities for their families. These families do the hard work of harvesting crops in our central valley, but ironically struggle with food insecurity themselves due to immigration barriers and food resources that are only for citizens. During COVID a food distribution began with bags of oranges that residents picked. The generosity of immigrant farm workers sparked a food distribution program that now serves 80 families weekly.
COVID has opened the door to more risk-taking behavior by youth in the community as they struggle to find a reason to stay in school or find jobs. We have seen an uptick in gang violence and drive-by shootings. We know this is a symptom of a deeper struggle with identity that can only be solved through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
The churches residing in the community are predominantly commuter congregations with very few residents attending. It is our hope to see a church planted in this community that is from the community and for the community.
Our work is highly relational and connected to ministry partners who live in and run a community center in Hidalgo. We seek to listen to the needs of the community as well as build on the resources of the community. Helping people gain access to food, freedom and forgiveness is at the heart of all we do.
A tutoring and Bible club occur weekly with 12 families in the outdoor courtyard of the community center. As Covid cases go down we look forward to reopening the community center for tutoring and Bible club activities, community meetings, and other community-wide events. Block parties, job training classes, Bible studies, Bike repair events are some of the activities that have also occurred in this space.
The Belmont Outreach team connects with women being trafficked through goodie bags and information cards as they walk or drive Belmont. Gospel-focused prayer and a way out is offered as women express openness to the Lord. An apartment for women able and ready to leave the life is facilitated by ministry partners and volunteers from local churches. This safe space is used with local trafficking organizations to provide women a respite from the streets ad a place to rest and recharge while preparing for their future. Relationships are built and resources provided in an atmosphere where Jesus' love is being poured out.
We also partner with the Trauma Healing Institute and Clear Thinking to provide Bible-based and mental health best practices in the area of trauma healing. We offer resources to area churches and community members who desire to learn about the effects of trauma on the brain and body and the healing available.
Certified Work-Life facilitators from the community teach Bible-based job readiness classes that are integrated with trauma-informed care at anti-human trafficking agencies and in the Hidalgo community.
A weekly food outreach birthed out of COVID assists 80+ families with food and diapers. Residents from the community lead and assist with the outreach. Neighborhood youth have been able to volunteer and learn simple job skills. Relationships are built as food is given out and opportunities to pray and share the love of Christ are abundant.