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With Friends Like These . . .

by Mike Rhodes (MikeRhodes [at] Comcast.net)
Rev Larry Arce, chief executive officer of the Rescue Mission, sends his “disciples” out to destroy homeless peoples property. Homeless people have lost their tents, clothes, medicine, and nearly everything they own in these periodic raids conducted by the Rescue Mission. Arce tells the homeless people who complain about his actions that he has the blessing of the city to “clean up” the streets of downtown Fresno. A California Public Records Act request shows that Arce is bluffing - no such agreement exists.
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With Friends Like These . . .
By Mike Rhodes

Homeless people living near the Rescue Mission in downtown Fresno say the chief executive officer of that organization, Larry Arce, is directing his staff to destroy their property. Lori, a homeless woman told me “we were at the doctors office over at the Poverello House when someone came in and said the “disciples” from the Rescue Mission were throwing our stuff away.” She said her husband immediately went to the Mission to ask Arce for his property back. Included in the property taken was Lori’s husband’s heart medicine. “Arce told my husband ‘oh well, the city told me to do that’ and that there was nothing we could do about it,” Lori said.

In another incident that happened last summer, Rescue Mission disciples directed by Rev. Arce, targeted an area known as The Hill, which is a homeless encampment just south of the Rescue Mission. It is public property. Using a fork lift and dumpster, Rescue Mission crews moved through the area throwing away everything in their path. Bryan Apper, who works with the Saint Benedict Catholic Worker, said he tried later that day, to recover one homeless woman’s property. Apper said “we were concerned for Peggy because they had taken her new red tent that a church group had just given her. Peggy is schizophrenic, she is barred from staying at Naomi House (a nearby homeless shelter for women) and would literally have no place to sleep that night.”

Apper, his wife Liza from the Catholic Worker, and Ashley from Food Not Bombs decided to go and retrieve Peggy’s property from the Rescue Mission dumpster. They found the tent and Peggy’s other property in the dumpster. As they were driving away they were stopped by the police. Rev. Arce had called the police to complain that they were trespassing on his property and stealing items from the Mission dumpster.

The Rescue Mission “clean up” crews struck again earlier this year. Big Sue, who lives on The Hill, said the homeless people in that encampment had set up Christmas ornaments over the holidays. The Fresno Bee even ran a nice feel good story with a photo about how the homeless had set up the display. Big Sue said that Rescue Mission disciples came out a couple of days after Christmas and stole the display. Big Sue said “after that I put up a sign of a big heart on the fence and the words ‘love each other’ and ‘forgive’ but they came out and stole those too.” She said the big heart symbolized how her heart had been broken when they stole the ornaments.

Rev. Arce repeatedly tells anyone who questions his actions that he has an agreement with the police and the City of Fresno to keep G street clean. Curious about this agreement, I submitted a California Public Records Act request to the City of Fresno and the police department asking for a copy of the document authorizing the Rescue Mission to take and destroy homeless peoples property. City officials tell me, after a thorough search of their records, that no such document exist. The City of Fresno Public Information Office asked Arce if such a document existed. Patti Miller, Public Affairs Administrator, wrote in an email - “Rev. Arce assured me as well that to his knowledge, no such document exists.”

The City of Fresno is under a court order to stop taking and immediately destroying homeless peoples property. During the hearing in federal court, Rev Arce gave testimony on the City of Fresno’s behalf. He supported the city policy of bulldozing homeless encampments and said that he directs Rescue Mission staff to destroy homeless peoples property if it is left on the sidewalk, on G street, or nearby the Mission. In sworn testimony in federal court, when asked if he has thrown away shopping carts with homeless peoples property in them, he answered “yes sir.” When asked if he has gone up and down G street doing that, Arce answered “yes, sir.”

With friends like these. . .

###

For a list of articles and documents about the struggle for civil liberties for homeless people in Fresno, see: http://www.fresnoalliance.com/home/homelessness.htm
§Above the law?
by Mike Rhodes
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Rescue Mission Disciples are seen here taking property from a homeless encampment called The Hill. All photos by Mike Rhodes
§BIG Sue
by Mike Rhodes
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Big Sue lives in the homeless encampment known as The Hill. She has had her property taken by Rescue Mission staff.
§Harassing the Homeless
by Mike Rhodes
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Rev. Larry Arce and Captain Garner telling a homeless man that he has to “move on.”
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