City, police, advocates to address homelessness

July 29, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
A major change is coming to how the homeless live in Fresno. City leaders plan a massive clean-up, partly designed to fight crime in homeless encampments.

Police and advocates say the homeless population has drastically evolved. Now they're changing their approach to one that cuts crime and holds people accountable.

The homeless encampment on Santa Clara and E Street in Downtown Fresno is the focus of a month-long police enforcement effort. It is an attempt to cut crime following a deadly shooting just outside the gates at the Poverello House several weeks ago.

"In the last 20 days we've made 82 felony arrests in that particular encampment at Santa Clara and E," said Fresno Jerry Dyer. "Individuals that are occupying these encampments are gang members and drug dealers and people that are violent and often time taking advantage of the homeless people that are in these encampments."

The Fresno Rescue Mission is also on a new path to helping the homeless and addicted. Everything, from the dorms room's set-ups to the bedding, is designed for a humbling experience rather than the defiant or entitled attitudes police and advocates see on the streets today.

"Having a job, making them stable, making them productive citizens of the community, instead of just providing for them here without any accountability," said Rescue Mission CEO Larry Arce.

That accountability Arce says will help many land on their feet. Rescue Mission councilor Jake Gonzalez showed Action News how they're now using a 32-camera system for more than just security. "We can use it as a positive and saying look you're working hard. Look how hard you're working and you're telling me you're not going to make it working out there. C'mon," he said.

The Rescue Mission has dropped dramatically from 220 people spending a night there to about 25 based on the new accountability model.

As for the city's new approach Dyer says crime should be cut and those who need it will get help.


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