By Mike Rhodes
In early August, the Community Alliance newspaper received an ominous e-mail from the Fresno City Attorney’s Office. It was the announcement of the demolition of a homeless encampment, and we were warned that “Any dissemination, distribution or copying (of the document) is strictly prohibited.”
The document was pretty straightforward: It was the intention of the City to destroy the homeless encampment at 1325 Monterey Street. The first thing I did was to inform an attorney the Community Alliance works with and get an opinion about the e-mail. He said there was nothing stopping us from letting people know what was about to happen.
Next, I drove to the encampment and was shocked at how many people were there and that the structures people were living in reminded me of what I had seen 10 years before. The poverty and dire living conditions have not improved over the past decade. I have seen refugee camps that look better.
The City of Fresno’s solution to this situation was to bring in a couple of bulldozers. Quoting from the announcement from the City Attorney’s office, they “will conduct a clean-up of the area, including the removal of all individual, personal property, temporary shelters, junk and/or garbage from this area.”
They did that and left nothing but a leveled vacant lot behind. Homeless people were again scattered to the wind. Wherever they go, the City of Fresno will not be far behind, with its scorched earth policy.
The photos accompanying this article show a scene of homeless people reacting to the demolition of an encampment at the same location in 2011 and a second photo of the same policy being implemented last month.
Albert Einstein summed the situation up pretty well when he said “insanity was doing the same thing over and over again, expecting to achieve different results.”
The article by Bob McCloskey in this issue of the Community Alliance newspaper shows us how to end this insanity.
Mike Rhodes has been writing about homelessness in Fresno for the last 20 years. His book, Dispatches from the War Zone, is an invaluable resource for anyone interested in the Fresno homeless situation.