Longtime southwest Fresno residents thanked Fresno City Council members Thursday for removing homeless encampments from their neighborhoods, but they also urged council members not to let them return.
Their comments came as the city completes its third homeless camp sweep in the past month.
Residents said they wished council members understood what it's like to have their children witnessing drug deals, prostitution and even death from their doorsteps.
"It's a dangerous environment for our families and children," said the Rev. Booker T. Lewis of the Rising Star Missionary Baptist Church. "I applaud the clearing of those homeless encampments, but we need to work on a plan that when we clear a homeless encampment, the homeless have a place to go."
Residents said they recognize that many of the homeless are mentally ill, veterans or people who lost their homes, but their neighborhood shouldn't be a human dumping ground.
"Let them live on your block, near your house," said Debbie Darden, a member of the city's West Side Planning Committee and 47-year resident of southwest Fresno. "We have to endure that every single day."
The council also heard from homeless advocates who said the homeless are now spreading to other areas in the city and are more difficult to track and assist.
J.D. McCubbin of Fresno Homeless Advocates told council members that Third World countries do better in providing refugee camps than Fresno.
But, he added, Fresno's problem is "beyond the competence for a city to solve, no matter how much they devote to it."
Gerald Bill of the EcoVillage Project of Fresno suggested that the city follow examples of other communities, which have built campgrounds for the homeless.
Council members said both the southwest Fresno residents and homeless advocates should take their passion for the issue of homelessness to the county Board of Supervisors, because the county gets money from the state to combat the problem.
Oliver Baines, who represents southwest Fresno, told the groups that the city is using $1 million to work on the homeless issue, money that was taken from other programs.
He said he supports transitional housing, but the city does not have money for that type of project.
"There needs to be a solution to a person being homeless," Baines said. "And it's not living on the street."
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