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City of Fresno Wants to make Camping a Crime

by Mike Rhodes (mikerhodes [at]
The City of Fresno wants to pass an ordinance that would ban camping as a way to end homelessness.
City of Fresno Wants to make Camping a Crime
By Mike Rhodes

The Fresno City Council will consider an ordinance on Tuesday, June 19, 2007 that would ban camping (without a permit) in the City of Fresno. The ordinance is targeting the thousands of homeless people (the latest estimate is that there are over 8,000 homeless people) in this community that are forced to sleep outside at night. If passed, this ordinance would add to other “quality of life” ordinances directed at the homeless. Those ordinances include one passed last year that makes it a crime to push a shopping cart (away from the business that owns it) and an earlier ordinance that makes it illegal to panhandle.

The proposed ordinance (on the agenda for 9:05 AM, but they always run late), can be downloaded or read from this page in a .pdf format. The ordinance was recommended by a homeless task force headed by the infamous Rev. Larry Arce. See earlier story - Holy War Against the Homeless here: . There are no homeless people on the “Homeless Task Force.”

The stated goal of the task force is the establishment of a plot of land where the homeless can camp. This is a part of Fresno mayor Alan Autry’s initiative to set up a “free zone” where homeless people can go. See: . The mayor’s pledge at this press conference (see website above for the details) was that he would establish an encampment where homeless people could go to escape from the attacks they are under. This camp would have portable toilets, trash bins, running water, and a trailer from the County of Fresno that will provide social services.

Instead, what the homeless have received are more evictions (see: ), harassment, and ordinances criminalizing poverty. The 60 day (self imposed) deadline in which the mayor promised to set up this free zone has come and gone. With property owners in the area of the proposed encampment up in arms (see ) about the location and the homeless themselves ambivalent if not down right hostile to the proposal, the mayor’s plan and the Homeless Task Force seem destined for failure. One homeless person told me that they are not going to get her “into that concentration camp. They don’t have any shade, it is all fenced in, and full of goat head thorns.” Another homeless person told me that it looks like the city is trying to push them as far south as they can. This assessment was somewhat confirmed by city council member Jerry Duncan’s call-in to right wing talk show host Inga Barka’s radio show about a week ago. Duncan told Barka that the goal was to move the homeless people so they are not so visible in the downtown area and that once they establish this camp it will give them (the city) the ability to clean up illegal encampments elsewhere.

Can the City of Fresno successfully manage homeless people by forcing them into the industrial section of the old downtown area and passing ordinances against them camping? Perhaps someone could mention at the meeting tomorrow that a better solution might be to work for more affordable housing, a living wage, and universal health care. Until that happens, we can try to end homelessness by providing homeless people with housing. Studies show that providing housing for homeless people is a whole lot less expensive than the current public policy. Plus - it is a whole lot better for homeless people too.
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by Becky Johnson (becky_johnson222 [at]
HUFF, our all-volunteer civil rights advocacy organization in Santa Cruz has been fighting MC 6.36.010 sections a, b, and c A.K.A. the Camping Ban since our inception in 1989. It has only exacerbated homelessness here.

Common sense tells us that if a man doesn't have $40 for a motel room, then he can't afford a $90 Camping citation either. Here in Santa Cruz, Ca. our city writes nearly 6,000 camping citations a year and we STILL have a large homeless population. Surprise! Surprise! Surprise!

You can't solve homelessness thru fiat. Homelessness is the logical consequence of current economic and political policies over which the individual has little control.

When a homeless person gets a citation for the "crime" of living out of doors because he can't afford to live indoors, this compounds his set of problems. He now is treated as a criminal by law enforcement, is deeper in debt, and in the best case scenario ( he serves his sentence/pays his fine) he now has a criminal record which is a further obstacle to obtaining housing and employment. In as many cases as not, these citations go to warrant, and the person ends up spending time in our county jail which is costly and completely non-productive.

The 9th Circuit Court ruled in 2006 that citing people for sleeping or sheltering themselves at night in a situation in which insufficient shelter exists, constitutes "cruel and inhuman punishment" and is forbidden constitutionally. Those cited under Fresno's new law might turn right around and sue the City for damages.

I hope more rational and compassionate minds will rule and turn down this effort.
Please learn from our mistake here in Santa Cruz.

Does Fresno currently have sufficient shelter and affordable housing for all who currently live there? If not, you have no business passing this ordinance.
by Surviving FEMA's police state detention camps
This quote says alot;

"One homeless person told me that they are not going to get her “into that concentration camp. They don’t have any shade, it is all fenced in, and full of goat head thorns.” Another homeless person told me that it looks like the city is trying to push them as far south as they can."

The quality of life for houseless people depends upon the conditions of the surrounding ecosystem. Lack of trees or other vegetative shelter during the summer (or other) months contributes to heat stroke & dehydration in summer and hypothermia during the winter. Land use becomes a great problem because so much available land for people sleeping and resting is tied up by for-profit corporations in monocultura turf lawns that forbids people from even stopping and resting, let alone sleeping..

Non-living for-profit corporations who make (false) claims of property ownership (under corporate personhood) need to be questioned on their so-called "rights" of corporate personhood instead of houseless people (actual living, breathing, sentient beings) who are simply looking for a place to sleep and rest..

How did corporations become more powerful than people??

"Our Bill of Rights was the result of tremendous efforts to institutionalize and protect the rights of human beings. It strengthened the premise of our Constitution: that the people are the root of all power and authority for government. This vision has made our Constitution and government a model emulated in many nations.

But corporate lawyers (acting as both attorneys and judges) subverted our Bill of Rights in the late 1800's by establishing the doctrine of "corporate personhood" -- the claim that corporations were intended to fully enjoy the legal status and protections created for human beings.

We believe that corporations are not persons and possess only the privileges we willfully grant them. Granting corporations the status of legal "persons" effectively rewrites the Constitution to serve corporate interests as though they were human interests. Ultimately, the doctrine of granting constitutional rights to corporations gives a thing illegitimate privilege and power that undermines our freedom and authority as citizens. While corporations are setting the agenda on issues in our Congress and courts, We the People are not; for we can never speak as loudly with our own voices as corporations can with the unlimited amplification of money."

Abolish corporate personhood @;

Sleep deprivation is another prison torture tactic that can take years off of a persons's life. Guantanamo prisoners under the GW Bush regime are familiar with the more extreme and regulated form of sleep deprivation as a torture tactic. Houseless people who are banged in the knees by police officers at 3 am and told to "Move along" are also aware of the torture behind sleep deprivation. Denial of safe sleeping and resting space to houseless people is a slow form of physical genocide by continuous weathering from hostile elements without the protection and shelter of a forest or structure. Lack of nutrition in food availability also contributes to the worsening of human health in long term houseless populations..

Is sleep deprivation & harrassment of housless people considered "torture lite"??

"The arrest of the senior al-Qaeda operative Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in March has led to suggestions that he might be harshly interrogated to encourage him to reveal details of any current or future operations that he might have knowledge of. A former member of US navy intelligence said that "torture lite" - sleep deprivation, and placing prisoners in awkward or painful positions for hours at a time - would probably be used.

“Torture lite” is still torture. The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has ruled that sleep deprivation “may in some cases constitute torture.” The United States itself has also declared sleep deprivation to be a form of torture, as exemplified in the 2001 U.S. State Department report on Turkey, Israel, and Jordan that lists sleep deprivation among alleged torture techniques."

STOP TORTURE! in ALL forms @;

Not like there's a shortage of building material, though the developers tie up all the building material in their suburban sprawl mansions priced at 300K & up. Not like the average working class person can afford this? Why do democratic communities enable for-profit corporate developers to build unaffordable suburban sprawl housing while allowing police to continuously harrass lower income houseless people to their death by exhaustion??

Oh yeah, the workers themselves are eventually going to be replaced by robots, eh? What does a profit based capitalist corporate controlled government do with their surplus populations? Send people off to die in a continuous occupation war in Iraq (or Iran?)? Send people off to prison to work for below minimum wage? Send people off to another sleeping place, only to tell them once again to "Move it along?" until undisturbed sleep becomes a distant memory??

Maybe the conspiracy theorists who warn the U.S. people about FEMA's concentration camps and U.S. government depopulation programs aren't that far off from reality??

Oh, guess who profits from FEMA detention camp construction contracts?? None other than D. Cheney's favorite deffered comp corporation, Halliburton!!

"BERKELEY, Calif.--A Halliburton subsidiary has just received a $385 million contract from the Department of Homeland Security to provide "temporary detention and processing capabilities."

For those who follow covert government operations abroad and at home, the contract evoked ominous memories of Oliver North's controversial Rex-84 "readiness exercise" in 1984. This called for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to round up and detain 400,000 imaginary "refugees," in the context of "uncontrolled population movements" over the Mexican border into the United States. North's activities raised civil liberties concerns in both Congress and the Justice Department. The concerns persist.

"Almost certainly this is preparation for a roundup after the next 9/11 for Mid-Easterners, Muslims and possibly dissenters," says Daniel Ellsberg, a former military analyst who in 1971 released the Pentagon Papers, the U.S. military's account of its activities in Vietnam. "They've already done this on a smaller scale, with the 'special registration' detentions of immigrant men from Muslim countries, and with Guantanamo."

article @;
by Mike Rhodes (mikerhodes [at]
I have just returned from the City Council hearing on the camping ordinance. Here is what happened. The ordinance was introduced and there were 4 members of the community who spoke out against it. Those four were myself, Cynthia Greene, Al Williams, and Willie Mac. Jose Luis Barraza spoke about the need to address the issues of disable homeless people. Jose Luis works for the Center for Independent Living. The council members asked assistant City Manager Bruce Rudd quite a few questions about the ordinance. Council member Sterling moved to table the motion. That failed for a lack of a second. Council member Duncan moved to support the introduction of the ordinance and Calhoun seconded it. There was more discussion. Sterling and Xiong voiced their opposition. The vote was 5-2 in favor of the ordinance. If I understand the process correctly, this was just the introduction of the ordinance. It will come up again (in 30 days?) and they will vote to adopt it or not. Then, the ordinance goes to the mayor for his signature. If it passes and the mayor signs it, the ordinance will become law in 30 days.

The City Council is aware that there may be litigation about this ordinance passes and Rudd addressed that in his presentation. He thought it was defensible but did not seem to be aware of the Jones Decision. Sterling, in particular, was outraged that the city would consider passing an ordinance that would essentially criminalize poverty. Xiong asked about the enforcement mechanism of the ordinance. He asked Rudd if they intended to arrest and fine homeless people if they were caught camping on city property. Council member Westerlund, who supports the ordinance, pointed out that homeless people would be initially cited if they were found to be camping. If they refused to move, after receiving the citation, they could be arrested and put in jail.

Council member Duncan suggested that this ordinance might not be enough to solve the homelessness problem in Fresno. He mentioned the problem of people giving the homeless food, clothing, and other items. It is possible he brought this up because, in my three minute presentation I said that the City of Fresno was not going to end homelessness by creating ordinances to beat homeless people with. I pointed out that they have passed laws against panhandling, pushing a shopping cart, and now they have this camping ordinance in front of them. My prediction was that if this ordinance passes, the next thing they will do is to pass a law to stop people from giving homeless people food (like has been done in other cities). Will more repression and draconian laws end homelessness? I pointed in a different direction saying they should be passing laws in support of affordable housing, a living wage, and universal health care. It is interesting that Duncan picked up on the one thing that will not help to end homelessness.

Several of the homeless people said that the camping ordinance will not work. They objected to being herded into what they described as a “concentration camp” in the industrial section of downtown Fresno and threatened with arrest if they don’t go.

For a list of articles and documents about the struggle for civil liberties for homeless people in Fresno, see:

Mike Rhodes
Community Alliance newspaperP.O. Box 5077
Fresno Ca 93755
(559) 978-4502 (cell)
(559) 226-3962 (fax)
AllianceEditor [at]

The word of the Jones decision is pretty clear.

Los Angeles and San Diego, two of the largest cities in the state have (against their bigoted worser natures) stopped ticketing homeless people for sleeping at night. Richmond has altered its law to preclude ticketing if shelter is not available.

Now Fresno's City Council bumpkins propose, along with some paid poverty pimps, to set up a field that might house 200 homeless people at most.

Doesn't Fresno have a homeless population of 8000 to 16000?

Isn't the City now paying for the nose because it decided to destroy homeless property and was slapped down in the recent Kincaid decision?

One can only wonder if the City Attorney likes litigation and so is urging another bad law be passed to give his office more work.

For activists, and particularly legal workers, it's important to stand up and educate the community that Sleeping Ban not only unwise, inhumane, and unconstitutional, they will cost the city much dolares.

Or perhaps those lawyers are waiting for a chance to make a little money with a new lawsuit?

It doesn't look like fun for the homeless in any case.

Mike Rhodes will be on the air discussing this issue at Sunday morning 8:45 AM June 24. The show will be archived at
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