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The King of G Street

by Mike Rhodes
This week the staff at the Rescue Mission destroyed a Christmas display put up by the homeless. With friends like this. . .
The King of G Street
By Mike Rhodes

The Fresno Bee ran one of those feel good holiday stories last month (see below). The story was about the homeless and how they had decorated a fence with Christmas ornaments. The follow up to the story is that Larry Arce, the director of the Rescue Mission, and two of his assistants tore down the decorations. According to witnesses, Arce laughed at the homeless, who tried to stop him from removing their decorations. This all happened on public land, about 200 yards South of the Rescue Mission.

In response the homeless replaced the Christmas ornaments with a message: LOVE EACH OTHER - FORGIVE. The homeless encampment nearby, called “The Hill” by the homeless, has grown dramatically in recent weeks. There are now about 40 tents on the site which is surrounded by overpasses and freeways. One reason so many people are moving to this site is that the homeless are being removed from other areas. Earlier this week, about twelve homeless people were forced off “the island” (see: ). Last month the homeless living near the railroad track were under attack (see: ).

The City of Fresno does not provide for any safe place the homeless to camp. Instead of a policy that would provide basic service (running water, toilet, trash bins, etc) for the homeless, they have developed a policy that is roughly equivalent to WHACK A MOLE. The city and other government agencies (like Caltrans and the California Highway Patrol) chase the homeless out of one location, only to have them relocate in another encampment. Before long, the homeless are again under attack and told to “move on.”

The frustrating thing for many homeless advocates in Fresno is that city officials consistently point to the Rescue Mission as an example of where the homeless should go. Setting aside the fact that the director of the Rescue Mission is directly involved in attacks on the homeless (like this most recent example), the mission is only for men. Anyone wanting to stay at the mission must sit through a two hour long Christian religious service. Many of the homeless people I have spoken to say you are then forced to go upstairs, strip, give all of your possessions to the mission staff, take a shower, and sleep head to toe with a hundred other men in their dormitory. People who have stayed there say money and other valuables are taken by the staff and not returned.

Arce admitted in Federal Court that he directs his staff to destroy homeless peoples property if it is on G street. I witnessed an attack on “The Hill” last August by Arce’s staff. If you go to: you can see a photo of one of the Rescue Mission “disciples” throwing a mattress into a dumpster. One of the tents on The Hill that was taken and ended up in a Rescue Mission dumpster. The owner of the tent, accompanied by Liza and Bryan Apper of the Catholic Worker, reclaimed their property (tent, clothes, blankets, etc). The Rescue Mission staff called the police and complained about the incident. You might think the FPD would ask the Rescue Mission what the heck they thought they were doing stealing homeless peoples property. But, you would be wrong. The FPD actually warned the owner of the property, Liza, and Bryan to stay away from the Rescue Mission dumpster.

The Hill, where this property was taken from is not owned by the Rescue Mission. It is owned by Caltrans and the State of California. It is public land. What right Larry Arce and his staff has to take homeless peoples property from this land is not know. For that matter, what right Larry Arce has to take and destroy homeless peoples property, when it is on a public sidewalk in front of the Rescue Mission, is a question he may be asked some day by a Federal judge.


Holiday for the homeless
The Fresno Bee
12/16/06 04:28:26

Fresno's Christmas Tree Lane this is not.

There's no snow-making machine, blinking plastic candy canes or strings of red and green lights to delight thousands of visitors.

Instead, along G Street, in a gritty industrial area of downtown Fresno, strands of green and gold garland weaved through a chain-link fence glisten on a foggy morning.

For the homeless huddled around a small fire under a freeway overpass, the decorations provide a bit of holiday cheer.

"This way, we don't feel like we're missing Christmas," says Ignacio Ayala, 50, who arrived at the camp two months ago. This will be his first Christmas away from his family in Texas, and he misses them, he says.

Frances Sanchez, 34, says the decorations make her feel good. She is spending her third holiday on the streets.

"It helps you get into the Christmas spirit," Sanchez says.

She helped decorate the fence with an angel and wreath donated to the homeless camp.

"The angel is real pretty," she says. "Now, all we need is a Christmas tree."


§Response by the Homeless to the Latest Attack
by Mike Rhodes
§Sign on G Street
by Mike Rhodes
§Larry Arce
by Mike Rhodes
This is Larry Arce (in 2004) showing me the site of the outdoor drunk tank he was building.
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