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Heavy on the Sticks and Short on the Carrots

by Mike Rhodes (MikeRhodes [at]
The City of Fresno plans to force homeless residents to move but provides them with nowhere to go. There is something lacking in the City and County’s CARROT AND STICK approach to dealing with the homeless in this community.
Heavy on the Sticks and Short on the Carrots
By Mike Rhodes

The City of Fresno posted new “Notice of Trespass and Clean-Up” notices yesterday. These notices were posted at two locations on G street - one just south of the Rescue Mission and the other next to the Stanislaus street overpass. The notice warns residents that on Wednesday June 25 at 8 AM “the City of Fresno will conduct a clean-up of the area, including the removal of all individuals personal property, junk and/or garbage from this area.”

It is bitterly ironic that the City of Fresno has repeatedly refused to instal portable toilets in this area, citing the “cost” involved, but they have the resources to force this group of about 50 homeless people to move. Lori, who is homeless and living on the sidewalk south of the Rescue Mission asked me where she was supposed to go. She said that she is afraid of the other encampments and felt safe where she was. Elizabeth, another homeless resident, said she was going to try to get into the Tool Shed City run by the Poverello House, but she didn’t think they had any space available.

With the clean up scheduled for next Wednesday, the question on everyone’s mind was - where are they supposed to go. Officials at the City and County say they have formed a “Task Force” to look into the problem and that until that group makes recommendations - there is nothing they can do. $3 million went unused in the City of Fresno budget (it was designated to buy property so the homeless had someplace safe to go), but it was never used because of the paralysis of waiting for a plan.

The City of Fresno can find the resources to push the homeless from one God forsaken place to another but they, so far, have been able to provide them with the basic health and safety infrastructure available to every other citizen of this community. The lack of a safe place to live, basic plumbing and sewage, and regular trash pick up is a public health hazzard not only for the homeless but everyone who works and lives downtown. The City and County have a legal and moral obligation to provide for public health and safety.

Will it take another lawsuit (see ) for them to provide legally mandated public services for all Fresno residents? If an outbreak of a virus occurs and large numbers of people become seriously ill or die, will they act then? What does it take for the City of Fresno to stop attacking the homeless with these endless raids and actually provide them with public services that will help them to:

* Have a safe and secure place to live
* Have safe water to drink
* Have trash bins and a place to throw their garbage
* Have a toilet so they can go to the bathroom

Hint to the City and County of Fresno: The “STICK” is not working. Look at all of the homeless people in the downtown area. If beating people with a stick was going to work, there would be less homeless in Fresno. There are a lot more homeless people in Fresno today than there were 5 years ago and there are more every day. Attacking the homeless with raids on their shelters, forcing them into tool sheds, and not providing them with portable toilets has not solved the problem.

The City and County of Fresno have the resources to start helping homeless people. They don’t have to wait for a Task Force to come up with a Ten Year Plan. The City and County can do the right thing now. They can stop next Wednesday’s attack on the homeless and provide them with services to help them get on their feet and live with dignity.

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

§The Notice
by Mike Rhodes
The Notice tells the homeless to “move on” but it doesn’t say where to “move on” to.
§Forced to Move
by Mike Rhodes
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