Why were the Homeless Attacked in Fresno?
By Mike Rhodes
March 29, 2004
Massive redevelopment plans in downtown Fresno may be what was behind last months attack on the homeless. The attack on the homeless culminated when the City of Fresno conducted a multi agency raid on a "tent city" that had developed on Santa Clara Street near the Poverello House. It was unclear why the Fresno Police Department (FPD) changed their policy and allowed the tent city to emerge in the first place. It was equally unclear why the FPD reversed that policy and organized the destruction of this poor people’s community.
Speculation about why the homeless were uprooted included:
* The rumor that developers were interested in building in the area.
* Social service agencies in the area didn’t want to be seen as a part of "the problem." The gathering of a huge tent city was not the image they wanted the community to see.
* The mayor and elected officials began to see the tent city as a political liability. As the tent city grew, visions of an Autryville or Duncanville was not an image that they wanted the public to see just before the primary elections.
While many factors have played into the draconian policy of attacking the poor and homeless- the suggestion made by one activist to "follow the money" was good advice. Announcements of huge developments in downtown Fresno have been in the news over the last couple of days. Today’s bombshell was the announcement of a development that not only includes Chinatown, but also the area South of Ventura. The area South of Ventura includes Santa Clara Street, the Poverello House, and the Rescue Mission. This is where many of Fresno’s homeless live.
The Chinatown area is being developed by several businessman including Ed Kashian who is a major developer in the Fresno area. The proposal to expand South of Ventura was reveled today and the developers say they are working with The Redevelopment Agency, the City Council, and the social service agencies in the area. The proposal calls for 500 homes, 200,000 square feet of retail development, and 250,000 square feet of office space. There was no mention of what would be done with the homeless who currently live in the area. Representatives from the social service agencies are meeting with the developers to see where they fit into the redevelopment plans.
The Chinatown redevelopment project is just one of many that are taking place throughout downtown Fresno. Last week an announcement was made that a $400 million redevelopment was going to take place just East of Chinatown and South of the new baseball stadium. That development envisions a lake, multiplex theater, downtown housing, and could include big-box stores. Just East of that development is another project that will include a series of high rise office buildings next to the new state appellate courthouse.
Development is coming to downtown Fresno and as it does, it is doubtful that the homeless have an official place in the new theme park environment. The only plan announced by the City of Fresno, so far, for how to deal with the homeless is to make homelessness illegal and make anyone who is homeless as miserable as possible in the hope that they move to another city.