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Indybay Feature

Fresno's Tent City--The Mission's View

by Dan Waterhouse
The Fresno Rescue Mission's perspective on the homeless, and the Santa Clara encampment which was recently removed by the local police.
The latest mailer from the Fresno Rescue Mission focuses on the Santa Clara encampment, and provides their "Christian" perspective on Fresno's homeless problem.

TENT CITY...HOME SWEET HOME????

Fresno's Homeless! You've seen them on the nightly news; you've read about them in "Letters to the Editor," and you've probably asked yourself and other why someone would want to live that way! They're Fresno's homeless...living in a community known as "Tent City."

You may have reached out to them! Maybe out of a genuine sense of compassion and concern, you drive through the downtown area and pass out a tent, a sleeping bag, loose change, or a sandwich.

But, have you really helped them...or unknowingly hurt them?

There are services available to the homeless! The homeless do have some choices. They have food, clothing, and overnight housing available to them. The Fresno Rescue Mission can provide for their physical needs of meals, overnight housing, clothing, personal hygiene..., and an opportunity to participate in a full-time live-in program, receiving the tools they need for recovery and real life change.

And, there are other separate agencies nearby that offer some of these same services --- Evangel Home, Poverello House, Naomi's House, Catholic Charities, The Salvation Army [all faith-based by the way], to name a few.

Why do the homeless choose to live in "Tent City?" Approximately 20% of the residents are truly homeless, affected by poverty, insufficient affordable housing, divorce, abuse, a lack of education, unemployment, mental illness, etc.

The other 80% represent a lifestyle of sinful and unlawful choices involving drugs or alcohol and a desire to live outside society's accepted structure. Regretfully, most of the 80% choose Fresno's Tent City rather than the safety and security of nearby homeless organizations.

They may use the money you give them to buy alcohol or drugs. Providing them with a tent only makes this type of lifestyle more comfortable.

Tent City promotes the open use of drugs and alcohol on the streets, increases crime such as physical attacks, rape, theft, car-jackings, even murder...and it promotes a physically and spiritually unhealthy lifestyle for not only those living in Tent City, but for the residents and businesses in the surrounding areas.

Is there a solution? The mailer goes on to highlight some of the Mission's plans, including a "safe area" established with the help of the police department to provide an outside safe area, with a covered area for sleeping and hanging out during the day, security, restrooms and showers, a place that would be alcohol and drug free.

The literature emphasizes that the Rescue Mission offers "a hand up, not a hand out" through the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

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