It was an honor for the Community Alliance to be a part of the ¡Que Vivan Los San Patricios! Saint Patrick’s Day Concert and Dance on March 17. The Fresno City College Old Administration Auditorium was a great venue for the 300-plus guests who participated in this benefit for the Community Alliance and activists going to Immigrant Day 2013 in Sacramento.
The music and dancers at the event were amazing—lots of people told me afterward how much they enjoyed the show. You can always count on our fund-raisers to have a progressive political message too. The San Patricio brigade was a group of Irish immigrants who fought with the Mexican army (1846–1848) when the United States invaded and occupied northern Mexico.
Our Saint Patrick’s Day event brought the cultures of the Irish and Mexicans together for a celebration, unlike any other in this country. No green beer or huge shamrocks, but we did dance, listen to great Irish and Mexican music, and supported immigrant rights. I hope to see all of my friends there again next year, for the fourth annual Saint Patrick’s Day party and fund-raiser.
The Tale of Two Cities Continues
Not everything was dance, music and celebrations last month. I attended a press conference near Ventura and F streets, organized by the Golden Westside Planning Committee, which was there to ask why the hell the City of Fresno was not providing trash service to the homeless. The group’s spokesperson, Robert Mitchell, told the media attending the event that the mayor would not allow trash to fill the street if it was in any other part of the city. Can you imagine piles of trash taking up the entire width of a street with discarded dead dogs on top near River Park or The Bluffs? I have seen city crews picking up gum wrappers on Bullard Avenue, but if you live in southwest Fresno, you come to expect neglect and indifference from City Hall.
Kevin D. Hamilton, from Clinica Sierra Vista, said that the accumulation of waste is a health crisis waiting to happen. Hamilton said that parts of downtown Fresno now look like a third world country and that the health costs associated with the concentration of garbage dumps on public streets near where the homeless live would dwarf any preventive cleanup costs.
Jeff Tapscott, a resident near the homeless encampments, complained that the city does nothing to reduce the burden on neighborhood residents. He asked why the City of Fresno did not provide trash bins for the homeless to prevent a health crisis and provide relief to the neighborhood.
The speakers at this press conference are correct in their expression of outrage and in demanding that City Hall take steps to provide basic public services for everyone, including the homeless. With millions of dollars in the city sanitation department “enterprise fund,” which can’t be used for anything other than residential trash service, the city could easily afford to provide trash service for the homeless. When I think about the money just sitting in that account, while people are knee high in garbage, it reminds me that this is not about the money: The leadership at City Hall is simply ideologically opposed to helping homeless people who are living on the street. They see helping the homeless as “enabling” them to live a lifestyle that the leadership disapproves of.
I disagree with the mayor and applaud the members of the Golden Westside Planning Committee for drawing this situation to our attention, but I also want to let our readers know that some people in this community are not waiting for City Hall to act. Take a look at the article and photos on page 2, which illustrate what can be done when a group of volunteers organize to help improve the their community. By putting a spotlight on the City of Fresno inaction and showing how the homeless can be treated with the dignity and respect they deserve, we might succeed in shaming the city into providing some basic public services for the homeless.
The Community Alliance is an important part of this work. We now have eight portable toilets in five homeless encampments, as well as three trash bins in two downtown encampments. If you would like to help, you can drop of much needed toilet paper to our office at the Fresno Center for Nonviolence (1584 N. Van Ness Ave.). Contact me (firstname.lastname@example.org) for information about how to make a financial contribution to help pay for the portable toilets and trash bins.
I’m going out of the country for most of April, so our associate editor, Michael Evans, will be coordinating the production of the May Community Alliance. If you have articles, photos or other information for the May Community Alliance, please send it to Michael at email@example.com.