Fresno homeless encampment closures continue

FRESNO, Calif.

This time around city and state crews met no resistance from protesters as they broke up another homeless encampment near Monterey Street Bridge. But they could face possible legal action if they fail to protect the personal belongings of the homeless while clearing them out.

Just hours before cleanup crews were to break up another homeless camp, fire crews had to come in to put out a blaze.

"It looked just like an encampment from the outside but actually underneath it was a camouflage. It was actually a vehicle that had been stripped and was being stripped," said Gloria Rodriguez with Caltrans.

Investigators determined the SUV had been stolen. The vehicle was intentionally set on fire within a homeless encampment. The city was planning to breakup that site along the Monterey Street Bridge.

We're very careful on our side to make sure that we are doing the best at this cleanup as possible and a lot of that really is about that interaction with the individuals affected," said Gregory Barfield with Fresno's Homeless Prevention office.

The city is moving with caution as to make sure it doesn't violate a 2008 settlement with the American Civil Liberties Union for disposing of homeless property. The ACLU of Northern California sent a letter to the city reminding officials of the legal procedures they must follow.

"As a result of the ACLU lawsuit, the city has to provide 7 days advance notice and store each time of personal value for up to 90 days," said Barfield.

The city and Caltrans say they are saving any personal items they deem salvageable. " By salvageable I mean that they're not contaminated in anyway by either rat droppings or urine or feces or anything like that. Those items can be tagged and bagged and stored," said Rodriguez.

Once tagged, the items are stored inside the C-Train bins where the homeless have up to 90 days to reclaim their personal property.

"After 90 days then the city can discard it," said Barfield. "Typically we don't do that on the 91st day, we wait quite a while, even after the 90 day window has exceeded itself."

City crews say they are also carefully removing debris around a memorial paying tribute to the homeless who've died, a place many would gather for Sunday services.

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