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Homeless in Fresno Face Eviction

by Mike Rhodes (mikerhodes [at] comcast.net)
Notices have been posted on G and Santa Clara streets, putting the homeless on notice that they must “move on” or they will have their property taken by the City of Fresno. Photos of the notice and the encampment on Santa Clara street are below.
640_notice.jpg
Homeless people are once again being forced to pack up and move on, under the threat of having their property taken by the City of Fresno. The homeless encampment, pictured below, is the site of the current eviction. The encampment is on Santa Clara street, just outside of the Poverello House. The Poverello House is a homeless social service agency that provides food, maintains tool sheds for the homeless to live in, and provides other services. For more information see: http://www.poverellohouse.org/

The homeless people at this encampment and others in the downtown area have until Wednesday, January 7 at 8 AM to move. Homeless people living in the encampment on Santa Clara street told me that they don’t have anywhere else to go.

This eviction comes at a critical time, shortly after the City and County of Fresno have agreed to move in a new direction that provides housing for the homeless, rather than attacking them. The City of Fresno and Caltrans recently settled a lawsuit that awarded homeless people $2.3 million, because their rights were violated as a result of illegal destruction of their property. The settlement was part of the motivation for moving in the direction of Housing First, a national program that provides homeless people with housing, without pre conditions. For example, a homeless person does not have to be cured of drug addiction or mental illness before they can get housing. Housing is seen as fundamental to helping homeless people improve their lives.

The eviction on Wednesday, if it happens, will be on the day after Ashley Swearengin, the new mayor of Fresno, is sworn into office. Swearengin has pledged to end homelessness and supports the Housing First model.

Gregory Barfield, who has been hired as the Czar on Homelessness for the City of Fresno (at least that is what some people call the job), will start his job on Monday. Barfield, who tells me his official title is Homeless Prevention and Policy Manager, is adamant that the City is going to move in a new direction. He is a strong supporter of Housing First and is looking for ways to implement that policy.

Late last year there was also a City/County Task Force on Homelessness that also came to the conclusion that Housing First is the model that will lead this community in a new direction and reduce or eliminate homelessness. They supported a Ten Year Plan to End Homelessness that features the Housing First model.

Why then is the City of Fresno continuing with the policy of sweeping the homeless off the streets, essentially criminalizing poverty, taking their possessions, and forcing them to “move on” when there is no better place to move on to? When asked about this, Barfield wrote in an email that “There is no effort to move anyone expect those who might be blocking the sidewalk.” He assured me that “there is a new day and attitude” and that efforts are being made to implement the Housing First model.

What better time to signal a change in policy than the week that the new mayor takes office and the Homeless Prevention and Policy Manager starts his job? Will the “powers that be” make a break with the past, when homelessness was treated as a crime? Will they provide the leadership needed to start helping rather than hurting the homeless? If the City of Fresno moves forward with this “clean up” I would like Swearengin and Barfield to explain to this community how forcibly taking homeless peoples property and demanding that they “move on” when there is no better place to move on to, is helping the homeless.

Wednesday will be a test of whether this City’s policy on the homeless has taken one step forward or two steps back.

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

###


The following notice is posted in and around homeless encampments in downtown Fresno (South of Ventura):

NOTICE OF TRESPASS AND CLEAN-UP

PLEASE TAKE NOTICE

The City of Fresno has received complaints concerning individuals who are loitering near or residing in temporary shelters that have been constructed in the vicinity of sidewalks on Santa Clara between E and G streets and G Street and Freeway 99 overpass (south of the Rescue Mission). Any individuals loitering or residing in this area is trespassing and will need to immediately move off this site and remove any personal property they own.

On Wednesday January 7th 2009, at 8:00 A.M. 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. Individuals wishing to reclaim personal property collected by the City as part of the clean-up project may do so by contacting

John W. Rogers, Community Sanitation Division Manager
Community Sanitation Division,
2102 G Street Building ‘E’, Fresno Ca 93706
(559) 621-1447

for a period of ninety (90) days following January 7th 2009. After ninety (90) days, any unclaimed property will be thrown away.

If you have any questions or comments, please contact

John W. Rogers, Community Sanitation Division Manager
Community Sanitation Division,
2102 G Street Building ‘E’, Fresno Ca 93706
(559) 621-1447
§Another View of the Santa Clara Street Encampment
by Mike Rhodes
640_dsc_0007.jpg
Where are these people supposed to move to? Unless the City of Fresno has a better place for these homeless people to move, they should not be forced off of Santa Clara Street.
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