Sweeping the Unhoused Out of Sight

Sweeping the Unhoused Out of Sight
Unhoused folks trying to move their only belongings during a recent sweep by the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office. Photo by Bob McCloskey

On June 2, an encampment sweep at Ashlan and West avenues took place. People were forced to leave with no notice, were not offered shelter and no one knows where they will go next.

I called Sarah Miradi from Poverello House and Gloria Myers from the Fresno Mayor’s Office to try to get shelter for the unhoused people displaced by the private property owner, but neither returned my call.

The City of Fresno recently increased fines on property owners who fail to “clean up” homeless encampments in a timely manner. Apparently, the City recently increased enforcement of the city code.

Encampments on private property are not covered by the Martin v. Boise decision, which requires shelter to be offered to victims of encampment sweeps on public property. The Fresno Police Department was present, and I was threatened with a trespass citation while assisting a disabled unhoused individual.

As always in this “great nation,” private property rights are sacrosanct and human rights are trampled on. Housing is a human right, but in our unrestrained capitalist system it is only a commodity that exploits people.

On June 18, in an early morning assault-like raid, the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office swept an encampment on a county-owned graveyard at Belmont and Hughes avenues. About 25 unhoused people were camping there. Many of them arrived there after previous sweeps, such as the recent Highway 180 camp sweep.

When I arrived at 7 a.m., I informed the deputies onsite that it was county property and shelter must be offered. One deputy said it was private property. When I was informed of that, I showed him a map on my phone that had it as county property. He mumbled something that shelter had been offered.

I later found out from camp residents that five, or possibly 10, shelter beds had been offered. All were top bunk beds, and some disabled people at the camp could not accept a top bunk bed.

In fact, the County initially had no intent of offering any shelter to anyone. It was only after I e-mailed a threatening letter to the Board of Supervisors that they were in violation of the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision that shelter must be offered before sweeping encampments that they acquiesced and sent outreach workers to the encampment just the day before the raid.

As I went into the encampment to interview residents and witnesses, one of the deputies threatened me with arrest for “interfering.” I showed him my press badge and said that as I was on public property and I could remain there. He approached me in a belligerent manner and again threatened to arrest me.

I left at that moment but returned shortly in my truck to help folks move their possessions. By this time, the deputies had calmed down and allowed me to help.

At the beginning of the sweep, the deputies were belligerent and mean to the unhoused residents, demanding that they hurry up and move their belongings. The posted notice said that the County would store belongings, but they did not.


  • Bob McCloskey

    Bob McCloskey is an activist and a reporter for the Community Alliance newspaper. Contact him at bobmccloskey06@gmail.com.

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Ms. Ellis
Ms. Ellis
2 years ago

This is so wrong. The homeless situation is a revolving door. Someone needs to fix this. Treating the homeless in an inhumane manner is not the solution. Obviously the plan is not working. Time to change strategies! Prayers for Fresno

2 years ago
Reply to  Ms. Ellis

I agree 100%–SO wrong & what the city is doing isn’t working — it also seems they’re trying to whip up the public to view unhoused people the same way they do with all the new laws they’re enacting to dehumanize them. Despicable and heartbreaking. I’m glad there are eyes and ears on the ground but we need more. When will people realize that as a society, we’re only as well-off as our most disadvantaged populations?

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