Morning wake-up call tells homeless to pick up belongings and move along

Fresno city crews cleaned up an area near the Poverello House in downtown Wednesday, part of a regular early-morning program of removing trash and debris at encampments of homeless people.

The effort is the result of the no-camping ordinance passed by the City Council earlier this year. It was meant to break up encampments that were springing up in various neighborhoods around Fresno.

Sgt. Mike Gebhart said officers “go through daily to make sure everything is cleaned up here.”

Trash gets thrown away. Items of value that appear to be personal property are booked and kept. Receipts are issued so a person can retrieve his or her property.

Gebhart said the homeless individuals largely comply with the clean-up orders. “People are asked to comply, and as you can see, most people pick up their belongings and take their property and move on to another place.”

The larger goal is to help those homeless get their lives onto a firmer footing. “We have reunited people with their families,” Gebhart said. “There are a lot of people out here who want to help, a lot of services that are provided.”

Said Gebhart: “Our No. 1 goal is to get them housing.”

The Unhealthy and Hazardous Camping Act was approved by the council in August. It makes camping on public or private property without the owner’s permission illegal and punishable by a $1,000 fine or up to six months in jail.

Homeless people are given chances to move or seek services from the Multiagency Access Program, a clearinghouse for housing, shelter, health and social services based at the Poverello House.