Heavy equipment continued moving debris Tuesday in downtown Fresno as the city of Fresno concluded its second day of clearing the homeless tent city near Santa Clara and E streets.
Before the cleanup began Monday, about 150 people had been living in makeshift shelters covered by tarps, but few remained Tuesday afternoon. Two other encampments with another 125 residents total will be cleared over the next two weeks, city officials say.
The neighborhood's decline continued as the encampments grew in recent years, said Rev. Larry Arce, chief executive officer of the Fresno Rescue Mission.
"I think it's worse to keep it that way and let it continue to degrade," he said. "The city had to step in for the surrounding community and those living in encampments to help them out."
Over the coming months, he expects the homeless to disperse to different areas.
Seated on a couch under one of the only remaining blue tarp-covered shelters left on Santa Clara Street, Jerry Williams said he wasn't sure where he would go.
"I'm frustrated right now, it's kind of like taking home away," said Williams, who has lived there four years. "I feel like they are going to put me in a housing project."
But not all the tent city residents remaining Tuesday were upset by the city's move-out order.
Melissa Carbajal, a mother of four, was hoping she could get a roof over her head. Her children live with relatives and she would like them to live with her again.
"I have been drifting from place to place for four years," Carbajal said.
She doesn't have her children because of mental illness, she said, but wants to live with them.
"They told me they are going to find me a place," Carbajal said. "But I have no income right now."
Fresno Housing Authority officials say that since June they have found homes for about 20% of the residents living in the three tent cities near downtown.
"I cannot tell you how many we are going to be able to house," said Doreen Eley, assisted housing manager.
The housing authority prioritizes homes for the most vulnerable, such as pregnant women and people who are disabled, elderly or mentally ill. They also can find housing for veterans that qualify.
But, Eley said, the process to finding homes is complicated and requires a willingness from the homeless to accept assistance.
"We are hoping to house 75 to 100 (from the encampments) and hopefully touching everyone out there who wants help," she said.
So far, more than 48 tons of debris have been removed and taken to the landfill, said Jerry Schuber, Fresno's solid waste division manager.
Schuber said he initially wasn't sure how many tons would be hauled away. "It's hard to estimate tonnage when you are first looking at it," he said.
Possessions were placed in large bins for homeless residents to reclaim. All the bins will be moved to the city's H Street yard if possessions are not reclaimed immediately, he said.
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