Written by The Business Journal Staff
Cruz Avila, Executive director
What we do: Poverello House works to enrich the lives and spirits of all who pass our way by providing meals, social services and temporary shelter. We work with partnering agencies to better assist those in need.
Education: Bachelor’s Degree of Science in human services from University of Phoenix; Master’s in organizational leadership from Brandman University. Started working towards completing Master of Arts in counseling at Cal State Fullerton for completion of Marriage and Family Therapy License (MFT) before moving back to Fresno. Hope to either complete at Fresno State or Fresno Pacific.
Family: Mom, Ignacia Avila and dad, Felix Avila, and older brother Benny Avila, who is a CHP officer in Ventura County.
How did you get involved in the non-profit sector?
I started volunteering in the nonprofit sector right after I graduated from high school. I volunteered as a mentor for Hoover High School in 1999-2000. Soon after that I became a director for “Friday Night Live” for the county of Fresno and Kings View Office.
What are the biggest challenges facing your organization right now, Cruz?
One of the biggest challenges is securing stable funding for the programs we have for the needy and the homeless. Due to the demands of the community we have expanded our services to include families and people in rural communities. Because of the expansion of our services, our campus needs to expand to incorporate the additional services we provide. Poverello House is dedicated to providing workable, cost-effective solutions to end homelessness in our community.
About how many people do you provide services to each year and where does the organization’s main financial support come from, Cruz?
We provide up to 1,500 meals per day, 365 days out of the year. This includes the meals we provide to 12 nonprofits in the area, free of charge. We also provide overnight shelter to more than 160 people a night through our overnight shelters Naomi’s House and the Villages. Poverello House also has a Men’s Resident Rehabilitation Program that provides treatment to 28 men. The rehabilitation program also has a vibrant after care program that provides housing and employment opportunities for men who have graduated the program. Poverello House also links clients to mental health services and social service programs through Map Point at Pov. Along with 10 other social service agencies, Poverello House provides clients access to the programs and services they need to end their homelessness. Since it opened in February 2015, Map Point at Pov has assisted more than 3,000 people.
How big of a factor is alcohol and substance abuse among your client’s difficulties and how do programs at Poverello House address those issues?
Mental illness and substance abuse are two of the biggest factors that contribute to homelessness. Both disorders should be addressed in order to break the cycle of homelessness. Mental illness and substance abuse destroys family relationships and inhibits a person’s ability to become employed. Providing resources to programs that address mental illness and substance abuse is the key to ending the cycle of homelessness. Poverello House has a men’s resident rehabilitation program that provides free treatment. Naomi’s House links homeless women to substance abuse treatment and housing programs. Poverello House also links clients who need mental health services to Fresno County Department of Behavioral Health. Poverello House receives the majority of funding through private donations. Because Poverello House receives private funding anyone can access our services.
What was the best advice you ever received and who did it come from, Cruz?
I have been very blessed in receiving best practices and advice from many amazing people in my career thus far. Because of the field and industry that I am in, all the advice received has helped me and given me the depth of understanding the mission God has set forth in my life and journey, and blessings that I still have to travel.
Who or what has been the biggest influence in your career, Cruz?
My parents have been the foundation that set the infrastructure to the many blessings that God has blessed me in my career.
What are your roots in Central Valley, Cruz?
Born in Fresno and raised in Sanger. Graduated from Sanger High.
What was your very first job and what did you learn from it?
I started working at 11 years old in almond orchards. It taught me responsibility and the value of hard work and helping my family out. It also gave me the drive to help anyone in need and not take for granted the many blessings I have received.
What do you like to do in your spare time, Cruz?
Anything to do with outdoor activities such as playing softball, soccer and running. Anything that gives me Vitamin D rays of the sun. Being with my family and friends and because I am a soccer fanatic, when I can see or attend a game in person, that makes for a great day on my spare time.