City of Fresno To Clear Encampments as Part of Collaborative Effort
– City of Fresno officials today announced plans to clear a number of illegal structures as part of a collaborative, community-wide effort focused on strategies to prevent and end homelessness. The City’s enforcement efforts will better allow existing service providers to care for Fresno’s most vulnerable individuals.
The City today posted notices that clearing of the encampment at Santa Clara and F, E and G streets near the Poverello House will begin on Monday, Aug. 26. The de-encampment effort will continue at Los Angeles and E on Tuesday, Sept. 3, and move to the H Street/Santa Clara area on Monday, Sept. 9.
“The conditions at these encampments simply are not acceptable, and the City will no longer tolerate them,” City Manager Bruce Rudd said. “We are committed to clearing those areas and working with partners throughout the community to make sure that these conditions are not repeated.”
Rudd said the encampments pose a number of health and safety issues. For example, Police Chief Jerry Dyer said the encampments have created growing public safety concerns because gang members and other criminals have started using them as a distribution point for drugs and other criminal activity. The Police Department has made 82 felony arrests in the encampments in the past 20 days.
“There is a misperception that people at the encampments are simply folks who are down on their luck,” Dyer said. “The reality is that gang members and other criminals have moved there and are taking advantage of the people who are truly homeless. We have to remove individuals involved in criminal activity and send a message that they can’t go to the encampments and hide.”
In addition, the City has collected 154,540 pounds of trash in three trash-only cleanups in the area since mid-June. The average household of four generates less than 6,000 pounds per year, meaning that the amount of waste generated in the last 45 days within the encampments is equal to more than 100 people generating waste for an entire year.
Rudd also said the City is working alongside other stakeholders such as the Fresno Housing Authority, Fresno First Steps Home, the Fresno/Madera Continuum of Care and many others on a comprehensive effort to address homelessness. As part of that effort, the City has begun assembling a Task Force to work on ongoing efforts to make sure the sites remain clear and prevent future encampments. The task force will include representatives from the Police Department, code enforcement and community sanitation.
“We realize that this effort alone is not the solution to ending homelessness, but it is an essential element of a more comprehensive effort to address this issue in our community,” Rudd said.
The collaborative effort follows the Housing First Model, a successful strategy that focuses on housing individuals first and then providing services as needed.
Fresno Housing Authority Executive Director Preston Prince said the Housing Authority has taken a number of steps to help connect homeless people with housing and services. The agency has opened three Renaissance projects since 2011, providing permanent supportive housing for persons who are chronically homeless.
Since mid-June, the Housing Authority and its partners have been working on an intensified outreach to homeless individuals in the area around the Poverello House and Santa Clara. During that time, 31 formerly homeless people have been housed and/or connected with appropriate services, including five Veterans and two pregnant women.
“One of the main goals of all partners involved in these efforts is to find the best housing situation for each individual,” Prince said. “We want them to be successful and remain housed. One of the major benefits of having a wide variety of partners is that we have the resources to offer individuals once they get housing.”
Other elements of the strategy include:
- $1 million in Tenant Based Rental Assistance funds in the City of Fresno’s Fiscal Year 2014 budget;
- Continuing to work with service agencies and technical experts provided through the Strong Cities, Strong Communities partnership to implement best practices and national philanthropy to develop a community-wide position to handle homelessness issues;
- A weekly resource fair at the Poverello House held by the Housing Authority and other service agencies to connect homeless with services. The will be held every Wednesday through Aug. 21 from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
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