By Mike Rhodes
Last month, the City of Fresno destroyed a long established growth of oleander bushes to remove a couple of dozen homeless people from their encampment on Weber Avenue, between Olive and Belmont avenues. The oleanders provided some beauty for drivers and a haven for the homeless from the scorching temperatures that went significantly above 100 degrees for much of August. Without shade, homeless residents were forced to move to other locations, where they will stay until they are forced to “move on” again.
Several homeless advocates were on Weber Avenue to witness the demolition and asked the question “if not here, where?” Advocates are demanding safe and legal campsites for the homeless.
This demolition was followed by the removal of homeless encampments under and around the Monterey Bridge a couple of weeks before. The city spent about $1 million to remove the homeless and destroy the bridge. What will be left at that location is a weed-infested vacant lot that will likely be fenced in so the homeless can’t live there.
Most of the homeless in Fresno have no safe and legal place to live because there are far fewer shelter beds than are needed. The inevitable result is that homeless people sleep on sidewalks, behind oleander bushes and anywhere else they can find.
After the City of Fresno destroyed all of the major homeless encampments in downtown Fresno in October and November of last year, those displaced have tried to find new places to live. The city continued a campaign of harassment for a month or two, chasing people from one sidewalk to the next and then in January 2012 seemed to back off. Now, it is on the attack again striking at one encampment after another.
The question the homeless would like to know is “where can we go?” Without a safe and legal place to live (preferably one that provides basic public services like drinking water, trash pickup and a toilet), this pattern of abuse and destruction will likely continue.
If you are tired of the city’s current policy on homelessness, contact City Hall. Contact information is at www.fresno.gov/. For background information about the homeless situation in Fresno, see https://fresnoalliance.com/?p=1313.
Mike Rhodes is the editor of the Community Alliance newspaper. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.