Homeless cannot be prosecuted for sleeping outside, court rules

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- You can find the homeless on nearly every city block in Fresno.

For the last 70 years, the Fresno Rescue Mission has tried to change that reality and leaders say the courts are interfering with that work.

"With this ruling what we are saying is that hey, in California it's going to be easier to have drugs on the street," said CEO Matthew Dildine. "It's going to be easier to use drugs on the street. And it's easier to be homeless."

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An appeals court announced this week it would not rehear a case about a law banning people from sleeping outside.

The judges ruled last September that anti-camping ordinances are unconstitutional if the people it affects have no other options.

Matthew Dildine argues there are enough beds locally.

The judges just aren't counting ones that have a religious affiliation or impose time limitations.

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"The people impacted by this law are the people that don't want any help," Dildine said. "They want to stay in their addiction, they just want to stay in a shelter bed, and they don't want to change at all."

Dildine admits that the city could always use more beds, but he says most nights his shelter never reaches capacity.

He believes the people on the street don't want the help.

We found evidence of that ourselves on the street.

"I was in the shelter, but I rather be outside, because I don't like being locked up," said Rafael Molina Jr.

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The Fresno Rescue Mission says they are working to introduce 100 more beds by this July.

Meanwhile, the City of Fresno has already amended its anti-camping ordinance to comply with the court's ruling.

Officers will only approach camps if there are beds available.

On a rare occasion, if a homeless person refuses help or to move on, they can go to jail.
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