Clint Olivier calls on Fresno city hall to control vagrancy problem

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Ronnie Hood Jr. has been homeless off and on for at least 25 years. "I don't even know what a bed feels like, I sleep on the ground," said Hood. "Anywhere I can lay my head."

He says shelters can't take care of him, and he doesn't want to sleep next to crazy people. To some degree, he says, he's chosen homelessness. But he says he doesn't cause trouble, and isn't a vagrant. "These people out here, you know they got good homes and everything, and they're out here begging for money, they got a job and they're taking money from people that need it the most," Hood said.

Fresno City Councilmember Clint Olivier says there's a difference between someone down on their luck and those that cause problems in public places, like Radio Park. There, it didn't take long to find a used needle, something Olivier attributes to vagrancy problems, which he says need to be addressed city-wide.

"It's spilling over into other people's lives, it's threatening the lives of families with children who want to use our parks and business owners who just want to open up in the morning," Oliver said.

"It's exactly what's going on in this area, you know it's not the homeless issue so much it's the ones that we've seen come through here on and off for over the last few years," said Sam's Deli Co-Owner Nick Marziliano.

He says Sam's has become a pit stop for vagrants on their way to radio park or the recycling center down the street, rummaging through their trash or panhandling on their property, until the security guard asks them to leave. "I ain't really got a problem, just the homelessness," Hood said.

Hood still asks for money, but he's hoping for a home soon. So he can escape hard times, and sleep on something a little softer.

Olivier applauds Mayor Ashley Swearengin's First Steps Home Program. The city says the housing first model has an 80% success rate in Fresno and chronic homelessness has dropped by 40% due to the city's efforts in combating homelessness.

To read Olivier's full editorial, including his six point plan, click here.
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