Valley Voices

Will ‘No camping’ ordinance ease homeless problem?

A homeless man watches the first annual Memorial Service for Fresno Area Homeless, near the Poverello House, on Feb. 14.
A homeless man watches the first annual Memorial Service for Fresno Area Homeless, near the Poverello House, on Feb. 14. jwalker@fresnobee.com

For months on end, my Fresno City Council office has been inundated with calls related to problems with homelessness. Nerves and patience have worn thin. Residents and business owners want to know if the city recognizes there is a problem and are asking, “Are we going to do a d--- thing about it?”

Last week I met with a mother who constantly deals with two individuals who camp in a field next to her house. She catches them peering into her backyard while her children are playing. Another recent complaint came from a business owner who told of frequent vandalism to her building. At one point, her business was flooded after her plumbing was torn apart by a homeless person trying to build a makeshift shower.

These two examples are replicated dozens of times every day in our city and I have been wracking my brain for months to come up with a viable solution.

In conversations with homeless experts and law enforcement, I’ve learned much about recent homeless activity here. This years’ annual Point-in-Time count of the homeless in Fresno shows a slight uptick over last year. That count shows that we have between 1,700-1,800 homeless people in Fresno.

Sgt. Robert Dewey, who heads the Fresno Police Department Homeless Task Force, says that of the total number, there are 500 to 600 who are homeless by choice. These are not homeless veterans suffering from PTSD, those with mental illness or the single mother down on her luck.

Wwe have generous people and great community partners helping those folks. The individuals I am talking about don’t want our rules, and they don’t want our help. They are a small group of roving vagrants holding a city of half a million people hostage. This is unacceptable.

I hear and share your frustrations. On the agenda for Thursday’s council meeting , I am responding to these complaints with a “No camping” ordinance. It talks about tents, bathing, food preparation and defecating in public places and on private property. This is the first of several actions aimed at addressing the homeless crisis in Fresno.

I am not naïve enough to believe that this will end our homeless problem. But my ordinance will add a tool for law enforcement when they encounter these obstinate people who are hell bent on this community-killing lifestyle.

Steve Brandau has represented District 2 on the Fresno City Council since 2013. Email: Steve.Brandau@fresno.gov

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