New Twist on Fresno's Homeless Problem

August 11, 2008 8:27:18 PM PDT
Some of Fresno's homeless are just days away from receiving money from a two-point-four million dollar settlement from the city of Fresno. The money they receive will be in the form of housing vouchers. It will solve the housing issue for some, but hundreds more are filling up empty lots with not just tents but shanty towns.It wasn't long ago that the stretch of H Street near Ventura in downtown Fresno was an empty dirt lot. The homeless gathered under the concrete overpass nearby and lived in tents. But over the last couple of months makeshift homes have sprung up made out of plywood or discarded office partitions.

One homeless man named "Edward" told Action News that people come out and give him all kinds of things. He says, "People come out here and give us ... give the homeless ... all the people ... the Lord does amazing things and I like that." "Edward" and his wife Patricia have added to their space over a period of four months. They have a propane stove for cooking and an outdoor shower. Edward says most of his neighbors also have homemade showers "Edward" says, "Everybody makes the best of it because they have to ... I have to."

Mike Rhodes, a homeless advocate, says, " It's not terribly different than what you see Mexico or in most Latin American countries which most people refer to as "slums" or "favellas."

Rhodes says the city should provide safe housing for those who need it, or at least designate a safe space for those who want to camp.

The mayor has put together a homeless task force and they are reportedly working on a long term solution. But until they come up with something soon, encampments like this will continue to grow.

The mayor and his staff say they are aware of the problem but the lawsuit against the city and its handling of homeless possessions has had a chilling effect.

Assistant Fresno City Manager Bruce Rudd says, "We had the judge's decision kind of hanging over us as far as what we should do and don't do and that did have an impact on what we will ultimately decide to do or were gonna do to address the issue."

Rudd says the mayor's office should have an announcement about a short term solution within the next two months.

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