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A little help goes a long way

HANFORD — On any given night, over 1,000 people are homeless in Kings and Tulare counties alone, but a little help can go a long way — which is where Project Homeless comes in.

Project Homeless Connect is a one-day, one-stop shop for people who are experiencing homelessness or are at-risk of homelessness to find the immediate, on-site services they need at one centralized location.

The Kings/Tulare Homeless Alliance coordinates the event. The organization is the local continuum of care for the area, where federal funding is funneled to be used for leasing and rental assistance for the homeless.

The event was held between 8:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. Thursday at the Hanford Pentecostal Church of God. This is the 11th year that Project Homeless Connect events have been held in the Kings and Tulare county regions.

The event offered meals, clothing and vital services like medical, dental and vision care. Resources included veterans’ services and housing opportunity information, among many others.

Marnie Garcia, who is co-chair of Kings County Project Homeless Connect and is also involved with the church’s Heavenly Shower Ministry, said over 30 vendors and dozens of volunteers showed up to the event.

There was even a mobile shower unit, free haircuts, a place to get pets vaccinated and volunteers from Koinonia Church’s Redeemed Rides program were on hand to fix bicycles.

Project Homeless Connect events were simultaneously held in the cities of Tulare and Visalia, and a fourth event was scheduled to be held today in Porterville.

Last year, all four Project Homeless Connect events helped a combined 918 people, 248 of which were in Hanford. Of those helped in Hanford last year, 137 people were homeless, while 111 were deemed at-risk.

Concurrently, the Kings/Tulare Homeless Alliance conducts a “point in time” count, where every person who goes through the Project Homeless Connect event is counted.

“It’s really important because that’s how we get a lot of our funding — by the number of people who are experiencing homelessness in the region,” said Laura Fisher, community engagement coordinator for Kings/Tulare Homeless Alliance.

Throughout the coming week, Fisher said the alliance will also be going around to cities and communities in the bi-county region and doing more outreach and point in time counts.

Both Fisher and Garcia said the event in Hanford went well, with a lot of people not only getting the services they need, but a little extra. Garcia said everything is done with love for the homeless clients.

“The community has really supported this,” Garcia said. “This year, we were overflowing with donations.”

Performing arts organizations join forces for fundraiser

HANFORD — Two local arts organizations are joining forces to “give back” and to dance and joke the winter blues away.

P.AT.Y.’s Dance Studio and the Hanford Multicultural Theater Company are teaming up for a day of dance workshops and activities Saturday at the Hanford Carnegie Museum.

The downtown dance studio is making it a mission to collaborate with other local organizations to “give back” to the community in an effort to “make the world a better place by sharing our God-given talent with other,” owner and dancer Patricia Diaz said in a release.

The community is invited to the museum from 2:30-5 p.m. for the “Give Back Project No. 1” showcase, which will see the studio’s dancers partner up with the HMTC’s Udderly Improv comedy troupe for an interactive, audience-inclusive performance, followed by a dance workshop for younger audience members which may feature surprise special guests like SpongeBob SquarePants and Hello Kitty.

The performance will take place in the Carnegie Museum’s courtyard.

Admission is $6, a portion of which will go toward the museum, and tickets are available at the museum, P.A.T.Y’s or through the HMTC.

“[We want to] support the Hanford Carnegie Museum, as they keep treasured Hanford historical items and it’s a beautiful museum for families to … enjoy,” Diaz said.

P.A.T.Y.’s and the HMTC have teamed up for local events before and, according to the theater company’s artistic director Silvia Gonzalez Scherer, they make a good duo.

“We share students. Actors interested in musical theater would learn dance with P.A.T.Y.’s and dancers wanting to learn acting come to HMTC free acting classes,” she said. “It is natural that artists collaborate so we work well together.”

The Hanford Carnegie Museum is located at 109 E. 8th St., Hanford. Call 410-8487 for more information.

HMTC member wins poetry slam championship

Earlier this month, Lemoore native and HMTC collaborator JP Rapozo was named champion of the 2018 Loud Mouth Poetry Grand Slam. The Top 8 poets between Bakersfield and Sacramento competed for the Top 5 spots to represent the Central Valley at upcoming state and national slam poetry competitions.

The event was hosted at Howie & Son’s Pizza Parlor in Visalia.

The Top 5, which includes Rapozo and poets from Tulare and Fresno, are currently crowdfunding as a means of making it to competitions “Shootout in the South” in New Mexico and the Portland, Oregon event, “Battle of the Pacific Northwest, as well as other stops along the way in San Diego, Berkeley and San Jose. To donate, visit

The Sentinel recently caught up with actor Rapozo to discuss the slam and Hanford’s blossoming performing arts scene.

Sentinel: What was your reaction to winning the Slam?

Rapozo: I was extremely nervous going into the Grand Slam. I was up against poets who had been doing this for years and who had been beating me consistently at the 2018 slams. I didn’t think I was going to make the top 5 and be on the national team. So, when they announced my name as the Grand Slam Champion I was floored. It didn’t really hit me until a few hours after winning. Then I got nervous for what was to come! I am the best slam poet between Bakersfield and Sacramento. I’m representing our area on regional and national stages. And I’m on a team with four amazingly talented ladies. I’m the only guy so there’s a lot of pressure.

Sentinel:  It seems like there’s a boom for arts in Hanford right now. How is it seeing events like Udderly Improv and the Loud Mouth Poetry Slam pop up in the area?   

Rapozo: There is a huge boom in Hanford and it’s so great seeing blossoming artists find their voice.  Silvia and I shared a vision of revitalizing downtown Hanford with the arts I read about her free acting classes in the paper and knew I had to join her growing team. To know that I had something to do with this movement is mind-boggling. She had a dream that is now spreading like wildfire. The whole HMTC team is very passionate and dedicated. 

Sentinel: Do you have any events coming up where people can see you perform?

Rapozo: Too many to count. People can follow Loud Mouth Poetry Jam on social media or Hanford Multicultural Theater Company for dates and times. You can find me on the second Saturdays of each month at Howie & Son’s performing my original works in Visalia. I hope to expand our platform to Hanford. I’m also directing Silvia Gonzalez Scherer’s original play “Boxcar” for the Rogue Festival in Fresno. We open March 1 and close March 9.

Police: Man stabbed, raped woman

HANFORD — A Hanford man was arrested Wednesday after he allegedly stabbed and then raped a woman he met online, Hanford Police Department officials said.

Around 9:45 p.m. Monday, Hanford officers said they responded to the Casa Del Sol Apartment complex, located in the 12100 block of Hanford-Armona Road, for a report of a possible stabbing.

Upon arrival, officers contacted the reporting party, who told them they had seen a female running from an apartment. Officers were told the female was screaming and covered in blood and got into a vehicle with a male driver and fled the area.

Officers on scene were able to locate a blood trail, which they said led them to an apartment inside the complex. They checked the apartment and located blood throughout the apartment as well as a bloody knife, they said.

Detectives arrived on scene and police said the woman was located at Kaweah Delta Hospital in Visalia. Detectives contacted the victim and said they learned she had been stabbed two times and sexually assaulted.

Officials said the incident unfolded when the woman met the suspect, who was later identified as 32-year-old Jimmy Lee Newman, on a dating website. She was brought to Hanford to meet up with Newman when police said the meeting took a violent turn.

Upon meeting the woman, officials said Newman stabbed her in the back as well as in the hand. They said he then forcibly raped and kept her against her will inside of his apartment.

Newman committed several violent forcible sex acts against the victim before she was able to escape from his apartment, police said.

Newman fled his residence before police arrived and had been in hiding since Monday night.

On Wednesday, HPD detectives said they were able to track Newman down to an apartment on Lynn Street in Armona.

With the assistance of the Kings County Gang Task Force and HPD Problem Oriented Policing Unit, officials said they were able to take Newman into custody after a short standoff at the apartment.

Authorities said Newman was booked into the Kings County Jail on several felonies, including assault with a deadly weapon, sexual penetration by force, rape by force, kidnapping and false imprisonment.

Man on parole found with guns

HANFORD — Hanford Police have arrested a man who was on parole after he acted strangely at a gun range and was found with firearms, department officials said.

Just after 2 p.m. on Jan. 20, officers said they were dispatched to the Kings Gun Center regarding a subject who was causing a disturbance and loading a firearm in the center.

The man, identified as Simon Duenas, was contacted by an employee as he was attempting to load his gun and was walking into other members’ range areas, police said.

Officials said Duenas was escorted outside of the business because of his odd behavior and he then began to roll around in the mulch once he was outside.

Upon arrival, officers said they contacted Duenas, who had multiple items in his hands. They said Duenas initially refused orders to place all the items on the ground as he attempted to walk away from officers.

Officers held him at gunpoint before he peacefully surrendered, officials said.

Police said Duenas was found to be on felony parole from Fresno County and had a .25 semi-automatic pistol on him, along with two rounds of ammunition. In addition, they said a replica firearm was found on him.

Authorities said Duenas was arrested and booked into the Kings County Jail for multiple violations. They said Fresno County Parole was also notified and is in the process of adding additional charges.