The well-known punk rock band, the Dead Kennedys, released a song in 1980 about the neutron bomb called “Kill the Poor.” Here’s some of the lyrics.
Now that we have the neutron bomb
It’s nice and quick and clean and gets things done
The sun beams down on a brand new day
No more welfare tax to pay
Unsightly slums gone up in flashing light
Jobless millions whisked away
All systems go to kill the poor tonight, gonna kill, kill, kill, kill, kill the poor tonight
Fresno’s new anti-camping, anti-sitting, anti-standing and anti–lying down ordinance, banning unhoused residents from all places, written by Fresno City Council Members Miguel Arias and Garry Bredefeld, will do just that. It will kill the poor (see “Fresno Policy Kills” in the June issue of the Community Alliance).
Why is a liberal Democrat, Arias, joining forces with an extremist Republican to implement a radically harsh ordinance? They will kill the poor.
The ordinance specifically bars unhoused residents from being near both shelters and cooling/warming centers. It bans people from being near intake facilities, where unhoused people must go to seek services and housing.
The new ordinance bans unhoused residents from nearly all places in Fresno. It prohibits sitting, standing, lying down, sleeping and having any possessions within 500 feet of schools, childcare facilities, parks, libraries, warming and cooling centers, shelters, even navigation centers (like the Poverello House), freeway ramps, tunnels, under bridges, pedestrian bridges, active railways, alleys, sidewalks and many other places.
In the triple-digit heat on the streets of Fresno, unhoused residents will die from heatstroke because areas of shade, such as freeway underpasses, will be unavailable because of the ordinance. Several unhoused men died from heatstroke last summer.
There is an added section that allows for people to be prohibited wherever the Council determines to put signs prohibiting them, and the city manager can execute how this ordinance is implemented.
It’s broad in how it could be used, and it limits acceptable belongings to a backpack or less. It allows for belongings to be taken without notice. Fresno’s Homeless Assistance Response Team (HART) already does this every day, as many have documented.
Homeless street sweeps are frequent operations in many U.S. cities in which government agencies move unhoused people living in public outdoor areas. Little research exists on the health impact of street sweep operations.
What research has been done shows that street sweeps might negatively impact health through two outcomes. The first outcome is material loss, including belongings and medical items. The second outcome is instability, including geographic displacement, community fragmentation and the lost opportunity to follow up with health and service providers.
These outcomes could contribute to less effective management of chronic health conditions, infectious diseases and substance-use disorders and might increase physical injuries and worsen mental health. Providers also reported that sweeps could negatively impact the healthcare system by promoting increased usage of emergency departments and inpatient hospital care.
Unfortunately, this ordinance will take effect on July 7. The sole dissenting vote was Council Member Annalisa Perea. This vote begs the question: Are the other six Council members and the mayor sociopaths? If not, they are exhibiting at least two traits of sociopathology: a glaring lack of empathy and repetition of failed practices.
The City of Fresno lost a lawsuit in 2008, Kincaid v. Fresno, and was ordered to pay out several million dollars to unhoused plaintiffs for the same Constitutional violations they are intentionally planning to commit now. The City also lost a lawsuit in 2022 for implementation of an ordinance that barred advocates from being near encampment sweeps. They were forced to abandon the ordinance under a court-ordered injunction.
Don’t let your tax dollars be wasted on lawsuits.