Poverello House is a private, nonprofit, nondenominational organization that serves the hungry, homeless, and destitute of Fresno, California. Poverello House began officially in 1973, but its history goes back much further.
In the turbulent 1960's, a young man named Mike McGarvin was on the fast track to becoming one of the many casualties of the decade. Drugs, alcohol, violence and hopelessness were his daily companions, until he found a place in San Francisco called Poverello House. The priest who ran the coffee house asked Mike to volunteer, and the experience changed his life.
The San Francisco Poverello served people who were characterized by poverty and despair. It was a place where they could come to find acceptance, a smile, and unconditional love. There, Mike found the answer to his problems: service to others.
Several years later, Mike married and moved to Fresno. He worked as a photoengraver, but was searching for a way to repay God for saving his life. The answer came when he noticed homeless people on the streets of Fresno. Mike knew what to do; he would hand out peanut butter sandwiches, talk to people, and let them know someone cared. Mike's small ministry soon grew, and others began to help. A storefront building was obtained, and he named it after the place that had saved him in San Francisco: Poverello House.
Poverello House thrived until the building burned down. Mike and his volunteers went back to the streets and alleys. Soon they had another building, but they were evicted, and once again took to the streets. Finally, through the generous contribution of a donor, Poverello House opened in its current site at 412 "F" Street.
From this location, the organization has grown tremendously. In 1992, a major expansion and renovation was completed, more than doubling the size of the building and broadening services. Poverello House now serves three meals a day, 365 days a year, to anyone in need; offers free medical and dental care through the Holy Cross Clinic; provides showers and laundry services to the homeless; serves as a day shelter and safe haven for people on the streets, houses a 28-bed residential alcohol and drug rehabilitation program, and a five-bed transitional home; distributes free clothing; provides recreation, mail service, transportation, and, in 2004, opened the Village of Hope, a temporary overnight shelter for homeless people who want an alternative to the streets.
Recently, Poverello House collaborated with the City of Fresno to open a second village, called The Community of Hope.