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Are Homeless People’s Human Rights being Violated in Fresno?
Homeless people in downtown Fresno, like the two in the photo below, are being harassed by the Fresno police. They are being told they can’t sit on public sidewalks, their property is being taken, and some say their constitutional rights are being violated.
“They told me I could not sit on the sidewalk and that I could only stay if I sat on the curb with my feet in the gutter, or if I sat entirely in the gutter,” Lori (not her real name)* told me. “A friend of mine got a citation for sitting on the sidewalk, because her sleeping bag and other stuff was beside her.”
Violet (not her real name)*, a homeless woman who lives near the Poverello House, confirmed that citations are being given by the police to people who have their property with them. “If you go into the Pov (the Poverello House - a homeless social service agency in downtown Fresno) to eat and you leave your stuff on the sidewalk the police will take it,” Violet said. If homeless people have property with them they are being cited for having “debris on the road” and if they leave it for a few minutes it is hauled away.
One woman told me she had been taken to the hospital and when she returned everything she owned was gone. She does not know if the police took it, but said that even if they did she could not re-claim it, because she is too sick to walk to the storage facility and carry it back. She begged me for a couple of dollars to buy some adult diapers, to replace the ones that had been taken.
Down the street, Ben (not his real name)* said that on Saturday he had received a sleeping bag and tent from a the Sleeping Bag Project. He put up the tent on Santa Clara street Saturday night. In the morning he got up to go to the bathroom, but when he returned it was gone. He is sure the police took it.
Violet said the same thing happened to her daughter a couple of days ago. “She was gone for a few minutes and when she returned, the tent was gone,” Violet claimed. “The police come every morning at dawn and kick our tent, yell our names, and tell us to get up and move on.” Violet says that the harassment is so bad that she and her friend have to take shifts watching their property. Sometimes she will go eat at the Poverello House and sometimes her friend can go. They can only go together if they hide their property somewhere that can’t be found by the police.
For more information about attacks on the homeless in Fresno, see:
Where Hope Goes to Die
Sunday Nov 3rd, 2013
The Grain Silo/Canal Bank Homeless Encampment is Destroyed
Wednesday Oct 23rd, 2013
Grain Silo Homeless Encampment Posted for Demolition
Thursday Oct 10th, 2013
City of Fresno Finds New Ways to Harass the Homeless
Wednesday Oct 9th, 2013
Mike Rhodes is the editor of the Community Alliance newspaper. He can be reached by email at editor [at] fresnoalliance.com .
* Homeless peoples real names are not being used in this story out of concern of retaliation.