Strolling The Town: Scour the Tower

May 3, 2014 | 2014 Articles, Community, Tom Sims

by Tom Sims

Tom Sims covers the Tower District, Downtown Fresno, and Old Town Clovis in his monthly column Strolling the Town.
We feel these are three areas in this Valley that are filled with history, culture and interesting stories. So join us each month as Tom goes Strolling!

Karen Flood Nielsen really loves her old neighborhood, the Tower District. She sees beauty in its streets, alleys, lawns, shops, and unique homes.

She has owned a home in the Tower since 1990, but because of work transfers, has lived some of that time in the Bay Area, specifically, Berkeley, where she currently resides. Yet, she stays connected, is still a homeowner, and still loves the people and places of special place in the heart of Fresno.

She would never sell the home and she loves her tenants.

That being said, a while back, visiting the home to do some needed work, she observed that “the area looked a little tired.”

She became aware of recent thefts and community problems and was faced with a choice. She could complain or she could do something about it.

Fortunately, she lives in a time where the internet is the shortest distance between two points anywhere and Facebook is the vehicle that can transport people in milliseconds. So, she started a Facebook group called “Scour the Tower.”988448_642791119108370_2913707802815234568_n

It started with telephone calls and emails. Contacts were made with people who could make a difference. Friends were enlisted. Information was gathered. Alliances were forged.

This all began to germinate several years ago as, she convened friends, walked around, took pictures, observed, cleaned, and met with city leaders. Taking notice of dead trees, trash, and weeds, she posed the question, “Is this how we’d have company come to our house?”


Area in Tower that needs attention

The Tower is their house. It belongs to all the neighbors and businesses and Scour the Tower is about doing housecleaning with pride and joy. That’s because for most of the people associated with the Tower, it is their pride and joy.

“Let’s clean it up and make it our own,” she challenged her friends.

Karen became active in a number of pages and groups on Facebook where community minded people gather and try to make a difference. She has formed collaborations and relationships with these folks and is very supportive of the efforts of so many in the neighborhood to make it a home worth living in.

She hasn’t always agreed with everything she has read. She recalled what seemed to be “intolerant threads on one page on the homeless and those doing drugs.”

She then remarked, “I checked on what Berkeley was doing and learned the downtown group had hired the homeless as ambassadors to walk around the downtown area to answer visitor questions and be the eyes of the police department should problems arise. These ambassadors were guaranteed a place and meals at the shelter. Genius right?”

For Karen, it is as much about the people, all the people, as it is about the cleanliness of the neighborhood. She noted, “There was another more recent post regarding a homeless man and his dog. Seemed most were concerned with the dog, not the man.”

She asked whether he was a Vet or had head injuries, and whether outreach services were being offered. Then she got connected with a previously homeless Vet who now works at the VA. She is waiting for and encouraging him to post resources on services.

This might be a good time to interject that the sixth Summit Conference on Homelessness for Fresno’s religious leaders will take place Wednesday, May 7, at the Islamic Cultural Center, 2111 E. Nees. Registration is at 12:30 and we will begin promptly at 1:00. The Summit will conclude at 4:00 pm. An optional RSVP to homelessfr@sbcglobal[dot]net would still be useful to them. It looks like an exciting program. There seems to be progress toward emergency and transitional shelter. The homeless are our brothers and sisters, and they deserve our help.

People in the Tower understand that well.

Karen is also interested in the children and youth who frequent the district. “Some consider the kids who hang out as no good, and the police department has apparently dealt with some who weren’t. When visiting recently what I observed were kids with henna dyed hair and no other place to skateboard or hang out.”

She has looked into the services of Alcoholics Anonymous for those who need it, outreaches for LGBT youths, and resources for people in need. The responses she has received have been mixed and the subjects have been controversial, but they are being addressed and for that, she is gratified.

Requests to the city are being submitted. Questions are being raised, and the Tower Design Review Committee is being encouraged along. One question raised is why the Streetscape Plan of 2010 has not yet been implemented. Documents on the plans and revisions are available in the Facebook group.


Area in Tower that needs attention

Karen is committed, energetic, and imaginative. She is deeply interested in the initiatives in place and brings the perspective of living in other cities with artistic and older communities such as the Tower. She collects and posts ideas and encourages discussion of those ideas.

She is planting seeds and organizing people. She is a catalyst and a convener of conversation. She is not, by far, the only person doing something, but a voice to gather other voices.

At the bottom line is one big idea that she believes will create a tipping point for good in this amazing neighborhood,” On every block, everyone should know their neighbor.”

That’s where movements like Tower Patrols make a difference and making a difference is what “Scour the Tower” is all about.

Join them here!

Other Great Tower Groups and Pages:

Tower Happenings
Tower Theater
Tower Experience
Good Morning Tower
Please Help Stop Crime in the Tower
Tower Pets – Lost and Found
Fresno Tower Scene
Fresno’s Tower District: Events and Information
Tower District Guide
… And many more…

You can find more of Tom’s Strolling The Town column here. Keep up with Tom’s writing and “strolling” by following him on Twitter @tomsims

Tom Sims is a local pastor (and Grandpa!), writer, and blogger. His congregation, “The Fellowship of Joy,” is part of a larger collaborative called “4141 Ministries,” of which he is Executive Director & he is an active Toastmaster. You can also find him on Facebook.



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