Residents of a Fresno homeless encampment have been put on notice by the city that their property will be removed Wednesday. It's the latest effort by City Hall to prevent the homeless from setting up semi-permanent residences.
The eradication of the camp near Palm and H streets just north of Highway 180 will mark the fourth time in recent months that the city has brought in trucks and heavy equipment to take down the makeshift homes built from tarps, pallets and scrap wood.
As in the other operations, those living in the camps say the city's efforts are futile.
"We'll go somewhere else until they move us from there, and then we'll go somewhere else until they move us from there," said Terry Welch, 48. "I can understand (the city's) concern, but we have to have somewhere to live."
On Aug. 26, city officials moved in to remove structures at Santa Clara Street near Poverello House. The following week, similar efforts eliminated a camp near E Street in Germantown. Finally, on Sept. 9, an encampment on H Street south of Ventura was taken down.
City officials say the encampments pose risks for the homeless and others. Several fires have broken out at the camps this year -- blazes that can spread quickly because the structures are close together and built with flammable material.
Police say drugs are sometimes sold in and around the camps, and other crimes take place.
As in the other operations, the city put up notices around Palm and H streets warning of the upcoming operation and informing occupants where they can retrieve personal property removed during the cleanup -- a concession to a 2008 federal court settlement in which the city agreed to hang on to belongings for 90 days so residents could claim them.
The city also sends in representatives to sign up occupants for housing and other services, but Welch and others say it isn't easy to get a permanent place to live.
"It's surprising that they are storing our belongings but not offering us housing," said Welch, a native of Crested Butte, Colo., who says he suffers from mesothelioma developed while working in the sheet metal industry. Welch said he is trying to gain government disability payments for the disease, and can't afford housing until he gets them.
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