Homeless camps reappear in Downtown Fresno

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Music is playing, and campfires are burning on the sidewalks of the old neighborhoods in Downtown Fresno. It's street life as usual in this block long homeless camp at Santa Clara and E Streets. But it's not supposed to be this way. Just two months ago city crews removed homeless encampments from this area, and provided assistance, and housing for many.

"It's always tough," said Greg Barfield. "It doesn't feel like we're making progress, but we are."

Barfield, the man in charge of Fresno's homeless program says the cleanup got rid of the worst encampments, but said things slipped over the holidays, when city staff members were furloughed because of budget cuts. He says trying to keep people from living like this is frustrating. He said, "It is very complicated, you're dealing with human beings and we are very complicated individuals."

Another visible location is along Webber at Olive, near the downtown DMV office. A large number of shopping carts and piles of junk seem to indicate people are living in the Oleanders. Barfield says the first step in dealing with situations like this, is to make contact.

"We get a call and they say look there's somebody living in the Oleanders, and then we try directly through my work or a service providers work to find out who's living in the Oleanders," said Barfield. "What the situation is and how we can help them get out of that situation and into hopefully into housing."

Another homeless camp has appeared along a canal bank at G Street and Nielson. There are about two dozen tents at this location. Action News asked one resident, who didn't give us his name, what the city can do to help.

"I don't even know what they could do," he said. "We're here because we choose to be... I guess... I don't know."

The city is expanding its homeless housing effort. They've placed homeless in apartments around the city and a 70 unit homeless shelter is planned for the corner of Ventura and G Street. But with and estimated five thousand homeless on the streets of Fresno, it's far from enough.

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homeless, fresno, fresno county, fresno downtown, local, gene haagenson
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