FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- A new bill introduced during a Fresno City Council meeting regarding blocking sidewalks met backlash Thursday morning with advocates saying it will make the unhoused feel like criminals.
This bill led to a lot of discussion among the council and brought comments from advocates for the unhoused.
Concerns were raised about legality, how broad the bill is, and where people are expected to go instead.
"Where do they go," said Cindy Piombino, Opposes Bill. "May I suggest we get safe camps? Safe lots?"
More than a dozen advocates for the unhoused spoke out about the proposed bill at the meeting.
The bill, sponsored by Councilmembers Miguel Arias and Garry Bredefeld, would add articles to the Fresno Municipal Code to prohibit camping and blocking many of the city's sidewalks.
Arias said this bill is not meant to criminalize the unhoused, because it does not charge them with a misdemeanor or felony.
"Simply would ensure that sidewalks and entrances within 500 feet of a school, a licensed childcare facility, a park, or a shelter in which a homeless are being served are clear of any encampments and obstructions for those who are entering the facilities or those who are disabled and need access to our ADA sidewalk compliance," said Arias.
Piombino was the first to speak during public comment. She took issue with how broad the bill is.
"It's no sitting, standing," said Piombino. "What do they do, just keep moving? Where do they sleep at night? It's just too vague."
Alicia Jacoby has been homeless for the last 11 years.
She worries people's belongings will be thrown away when they're told to move and thinks this will make the streets more dangerous, particularly for women and people who have disabilities like herself.
"You have to go off the beaten path and a lot of bad things happen to women in isolated like that," said Jacoby.
Advocates said if the city were to provide other options for the unhoused they wouldn't have to be on the streets.
"The lack of funding inside the right resources, or maybe safe lots safe camps, harm reduction camps, or harm reduction sites," said Dez Martinez, Opposes Bill. "This will help bring a lot of people off the streets, the alleys, the sidewalks, the curbs, everywhere that they mentioned, we won't have to be there."
Councilmember Bredefeld said those solutions aren't safer and that advocates need to be pressing the county to provide more services.
"We don't believe people should be having encampments," said Bredefeld. "They call them safe encampments, nothing safe about encampments. So I completely disagree with many of their solutions. They want quote "rent control" that would cause more problems in the city of Fresno.
The bill passed 6 to 1 on Thursday. It will be up for a final vote in 2 weeks.
A big question from other council members was who would enforce the bill.
The city attorney said that is up to the discretion of the city manager, it could be police or city officials. Advocates said that could open the un-housed to abuse.
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