Local

Fresno vows to demolish homeless settlements

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Another crackdown on homeless camps is coming. The city of Fresno is launching a new operation to remove camps in three locations around downtown.

The encampment at G Street and Santa Clara, the shanty town camp at Los Angeles and E Street and the sprawling camp at H Street and Ventura will be targeted in the coming weeks.

However, they acknowledge tearing down the camps won't get the homeless off the streets.

These encampments have been here off and on for years. But City Manager Bruce Rudd says they have to go.

"Over the last several weeks there have been 82 felony arrests made in this encampments," said Rudd. "Everything from drugs to weapons. This cannot continue."

Rudd says city crews will tear down these structures that have become permanent housing for too many people. But attorney Chris Schneider from Central California Legal Services says the crackdown won't solve anything.

"When they clear out those camps in the next six weeks there are probably hundreds of people that will lose their shelters with no place to go," said Schneider. "There are not enough shelters in the city of Fresno."

Rudd acknowledges tearing down the camps won't get most of the homeless off the streets.

"The reality is the individuals who are in and around or in those encampments aren't really going anywhere," said Rudd. "They may set up a tent at night."

It's estimated there are 4,000 homeless in the city, more than half are in these three camps. Lena Richardson has been living down on Los Angeles Street off and on for five years. She supports the clean-up, but says, it won't work for long.

"If you guys move this out and clean this up you know what's gonna happen," said Richardson. "Two or three months later another hoods gonna come in it's never gonna leave."

Schneider agrees the crackdown will simply get the homeless out of sight, for a while.

"And so they are going to go into hiding and try to find locations where they are not seen," said Schneider. "Because the city made it very clear if they see an encampment starting they are going to run the people out, so they are just making the problem worse."

The city and the housing authority are working to find permanent housing for some. About 50 homeless have been moved in the past couple of week, but Rudd says this crackdown is not about ending homelessness.

Rudd added, "Because realistically to find permanent housing for 4,000 people, we are not going to do that overnight."

Rudd says the city will be very careful in removing the camps and dealing with the belongings of the homeless. The city lost a Federal Civil Rights case and paid out $2 million for destroying the property of homeless residents. The city faces an additional 35 lawsuits over another homeless crackdown.

Rudd says a city attorney and two code enforcement officers along with a photographer will accompany city crews on the demolition of these homeless camps. The project starts on August 26th.

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