Advocate speaks out after wave of violence against Fresno homeless

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A woman who spent nearly a year living on the streets is speaking out about recent violence in the homeless community. (KFSN)

A woman who spent nearly a year living on the streets is speaking out about recent violence in the homeless community.

For some people, their home is the sidewalk. It's where they wake up, go to sleep and, in some cases, take their last breath.

Desiree Martinez would know. The Central Valley woman admits she lived on the streets for several months after she could no longer work or support herself because of an injury stemming from domestic abuse.

"I didn't do this to myself," she said. "I had my spine and my spinal coral severed in half, and it left me paralyzed for a year."

Martinez says she was on disability, but the money was not enough to keep a roof over her head.

"I tried many programs, Section 8, lower income, to help, but it's a lottery system," she explained. "So, eventually you're living off $800 a month and there's nowhere here for that."

Now that she's gotten herself off the streets, recent crimes against homeless people remind her of some of the dangers she witnessed firsthand.

"I had to watch a woman get beat up from a man and there were several other men there, but nobody wanted to stand up because you are going to get hurt too and it's dangerous out here," she said. "And it was over a baby stroller. There's danger out here, especially in Fresno, especially now with four murders in two months - it is ridiculous."

Cruz Avila is the executive director of the Poverello house and has been working closely with the Fresno Police Department. They're doing ridealongs with officers and trying to get an idea of what is leading to the recent uptick in crimes in the homeless community.

"We are starting to see, unfortunately, it's client vs client," he said. "And we are starting to see an increase in client violence because it is kind of like the street justice, they are taking care of their own out on the street."

In the meantime, Martinez regularly visits homeless encampments and tries to advocate for homeless victim's families.

"I want answers because I don't understand," she said. "Just because they are homeless does not mean they are not somebody."

She hopes one day waking up on a sidewalk won't be a death sentence.

Related Topics:
homelessfresnohomicide investigationFresno
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