There are not enough shelter beds to house the thousands of homeless people in Fresno. Even though they have nowhere to go, homeless people are forced by the city to move from one God-forsaken vacant lot or sidewalk to another. They are threatened and lied to by the very agencies and public officials who should be helping them. This group refused to be intimidated.

Progressive News Briefs

Fresno Homeless Czar Harasses the Homeless

Probably the cleanest homeless encampment in downtown Fresno is on F Street (between Ventura and Santa Clara). The people at that encampment were targeted for eviction last month by Fresno’s homeless czar, Greg Barfield.

Robert and Nate, two residents of the camp, say they were visited on the morning of January 3 by several Fresno Police Department officers on bicycles. The officers told them that they had to move by 5 p.m. or they would be given citations and their tents would be removed. When asked why, the officers told Robert and Nate that Barfield wanted them removed. Barfield told me in an e-mail “that there are a number of complaints about F Street as well as Santa Clara. Those persons in F Street have been asked to move.” Asked if anyone other than the Poverello House and himself had complained, Barfield was silent. A California Public Records Act request has been sent to see who complained.

The next morning Robert entered the Poverello House (a social service agency assisting the homeless in downtown Fresno) and was told by security that he would have to leave. Robert asked why. He was told that it was because his tent was on the sidewalk on F Street. In addition, Nate and all of the other (15 or so) residents were banned from the Poverello House.

Richard, Nate and the other residents of the F Street homeless encampment refused to be intimidated and did not move. They were given cameras by the Community Alliance newspaper and encouraged to document any actions that the police took to evict them from their encampment.

Nate reported to us on January 9 that the situation had normalized and everyone from the F Street encampment was able to enter and use the Poverello House services. According to Nate, Paul Stark, who works at the Poverello House, asked to speak to Nate about the situation. Paul told Nate that he had tried to “buffalo” him into moving and that he was sorry. He also said that “F Street was the city’s problem” and that Nate and the other residents living in that encampment were no longer banned from the Poverello House.

When the police, the homeless czar and the Poverello House threatened and tried to intimidate the homeless into giving up their space, they did not back down. They took steps to defend their rights, asked questions and reached out for community support. Together, the homeless and homeless advocates were able to protect their right to live on a small patch of publicly owned property, forced the Poverello House to abandon their discriminatory policy and provided some guidance for others on how to deal with the police and the homeless czar.

Fresno City Council Member Olivier Speaks Truth at MLK March

Fresno City Council member Clint Olivier gave a powerful anti-war speech at last month’s Martin Luther King Day march. You can read the text of his speech on this page.

Fresno City Council member Clint Olivier was the only speaker at the Martin Luther King march, when it stopped in front of City Hall, to call for peace. The text of his speech is below:

“As I stand here this morning, I think about the times we live in and I think about what Dr. King would say. We have young people at this event this morning who have never known peace. Since they have been born, the United States has been at war. They have never known peace. We are told that we must first have war before we can have peace. We are told that to have perpetual peace, we must first have perpetual war, and I wonder what Dr. King would say on this special Martin Luther King holiday.

“You know, Dr. King spoke out against the Vietnam War. He took, what was at that time, an unpopular position to speak out against that war—in the name of peace and brotherhood and in the name of activism and doing what is right. Back then, we were told we can’t stop communism unless we first have this war. If there is another one, we will have to take action in that one as well. Now we are told we must first have war in Afghanistan before we can have peace and we must first have war in Iraq before we have peace, and I wonder what we are going to be told next—if there is another place we must have war before we have peace.

“In the name of the young folks that are here, I call on our leaders to give us peace. In the name of the message of Dr. King, give us peace, because there is not just violence on our streets here at home, but there is violence in other countries and our soldiers are right in the middle of that. I say let’s bring them home and give us peace.”

— Speech by Clint Olivier, Fresno City Council Member
January 17 at the MLK march in Fresno

New Local Independent Magazine

 

Infinity Literary Magazine began as a fund-raising idea for a youth-based arts program, The Muralistics. One or two of the youth involved in the program, for which the mission is to beautify schools and neighborhoods and promote community education, clearly had more of a passion for writing than painting. The idea for the magazine grew into its own literary program, featuring a literary magazine, co-edited by Central Valley writers and youth. The magazine’s first quarterly edition will come out in late February and will feature short stories, poetry, personal essays, interviews and black-and-white photography from established Central Valley writers and youth.

The magazine will also have a section open to Valley residents where they can share a story or memory about an element, place or thing that belongs strictly to the Valley. The featured photographers will do a workshop with the youth whose work will be selected for each edition.

The first edition will feature a photo essay by photographer Gary Christiansen, as well as photos by Valley youth. There will be new work by Dixie Salazar, author of Hotel Fresno and a 2009 collection of poems, Flamenco Hips and Red Mud Feet, and a National Book Award Winner, and Tim Z. Hernandez, who released his latest novel in 2010, titled Breathing, In Dust, which is set in the Central Valley. Other Valley writers and youth will have work featured in the first edition as well.

The magazine will have a launch party, February 24, 6:30 p.m.–8:30 p.m. at the Revue Cafe in the Tower District. The celebration of the magazine will include readings from the writers, slides of the photography and music by Lance Canales and the Flood. Magazines can be purchased at All Things Fresno or from our online blog in March.

The magazine is a nonprofit and operates with donations from the community to counter the magazine’s high printing costs. All proceeds from sales of the magazine will go directly back into printing the next issue. Learn more at http://infinityliterarymagazine.blogspot.com/, where you can also make a donation. If you are a youth, ages 14–20 and have something you would like to submit, send it to infinityliterarymagazine@gmail.com.

  • Mike Rhodes is a writer for the Community Alliance newspaper and author of the book Dispatches from the War Zone, about homelessness in Fresno. www.mikerhodes.us is his website. Contact him at mikerhodes@comcast.net.

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