Phase two of Fresno City Hall's sweep through downtown homeless encampments appeared to go off without a hitch -- except for those who saw their makeshift roofs reduced to trash.
City workers on Tuesday took down structures at an encampment at Monterey and E streets in what was once part of Fresno's vibrant Germantown. An estimated 60 people had been living on a two-block stretch of dirt sandwiched between Highway 99 and an alley.
The Germantown camp had been among Fresno's biggest and most dangerous. Neighborhood residents said gun battles sometimes spilled from the camp into an E Street lined with homes and churches.
But City Hall pressure and fires of uncertain origin steadily whittled away at the camp's size. City Manager Bruce Rudd said a razing once expected to take the better part of a week would be completed in a mere day.
"A lot of folks had already left," Rudd said.
City officials in July said they'd had enough of downtown homeless camps, which had become centers of crime and danger. City officials were especially irked that, whether by design or bureaucratic sloth, the camps had taken on an air of permanence even though their existence violated large swaths of city code.
The sprawling camp on Santa Clara, E and F streets, with more than 250 people, was eliminated last week in a major display of City Hall force and resolve. A camp on H Street south of Ventura Avenue is next Monday's target.
Homeless advocates say that the city is offering no option to Fresno's most vulnerable, while city officials argue that every effort is being made to find other options for displaced residents.
Like many residents of the Monterey/E encampment, Rachel Mata on Tuesday said she had no idea where she was to go.
"We're homeless," said Mata, 28. "I don't understand the reason they're doing this to us when they know we don't have anywhere to go."
Mata said she has been homeless for two years.
"It's hard to get a job with the economy and the tax rate is way up."
Asked if she had received any city help, she said, "Not really. Look what they're doing now."
However, Mata conceded that some camp residents hurt their cause by failing to pick up trash.
Virginia Lopez, 54, was uncertain about her next stop. That was a bitter pill for her, because earlier this year, she had found an apartment to share with her daughter on Diana Street near McKenzie Avenue.
Then, she says, her daughter was stabbed by her boyfriend, who allegedly burned the complex down in May. The daughter recovered.
"I applied for housing six months ago, and haven't heard anything," said Lopez, a lifelong Fresno resident whose children graduated from local high schools.
Lopez survived three fires in the Monterey encampment.
"It's hard," she said. "Every time, I lost everything."
Alfonso De La Vara hoped closing the encampment will herald a new chapter in his life and end a cycle of homelessness and addiction.
De La Vara, 38, has been homeless for about four years and was upset that his 18-year-old daughter is also on the streets, somewhere.
"I want to get this behind me before I turn 40," he said. "Addiction is really hard to break," he added, especially when drugs are all around the encampments.
Rudd on Tuesday again reviewed the city's plan to change the local debate on homelessness.
The city will never again tolerate the sprawling camps. If nothing else, Rudd said, turning a blind eye to their existence leaves City Hall open to charges of selective code enforcement.
The city will continue to team with other organizations -- Fresno First Steps Home and the Fresno Housing Authority are always high on Rudd's list -- to help the homeless find housing. Rudd said he'll soon ask the City Council to appropriate $1 million for homeless rental assistance.
The city will not waver. Rudd is already making plans to remove the big homeless camp located at the hard-to-find juncture of an irrigation ditch and Union Pacific railroad tracks on downtown's north edge.
Rudd said that sweep should begin in October.