Monday, August 12, 2013

Arson at Fresno Homeless encampment, on the eve of Fresno City's campaign to exile those without addresses

Human Rights abuse in the City of Fresno [link]
Defend those without homes!
campaign page [link]

The tragedy of the Fresno Homeless Arson Attacks is that the City of Fresno is still proceeding with it's abusive plans to exile all those without an address within city limits, and is not doing anything to remedy the Human Rights abuse suffered by the People.

2013-08-16 "According to the Fire Department" comment by Dan Waterhouse: Homeless people are responsible. The fire on August 7 where the arrest was made was set by a homeless man who was involved in a dispute with someone in that camp. A second fire was caused by people burning insulation off wiring. The third fire's precise cause is still under investigation but was caused by homeless. Story on line on the Fresno Bee website.

2013-08-12 "Who is burning down the Fresno Homeless Encampments?"
All photos and text by Mike Rhodes (editor [at]
More information about the treatment of those without homes are archived by Michael Rhodes at []
There have been 2 major fires at homeless encampments in the last week. One was a confirmed arson and the fire department has not determined the cause of yesterday’s fire. The photos below show what remains.

When I was there this afternoon I did not see anybody from the City of Fresno, the Red Cross, or anywhere else trying to help the homeless who lost everything they owned. In fact, the City of Fresno has signs up saying they are going to bulldoze this (and other) homeless encampments in downtown Fresno starting later this month. The demolition notices do not explain how this city action will help the homeless or where they are supposed to go.
Monterey and E street 1: The woman in the foreground was looking for anything of value left after the fire. The man behind the fence is putting up a new shelter.

Monterey and E street 2: Looking north from California street

Monterey and E street 3: These shelters at the north end of the encampment did not get destroyed

Monterey and E street 4: A boat that burned on the north end of the encampment looks out of place

Golden State Off Ramp 1: This is the fire that happened last week

Golden State Off Ramp 2: Another View of the fire damage

Golden State Off Ramp 3: This is the Homeless Encampment just south of the fire

Golden State Off Ramp 4: These are shelters a little further south on Golden State

Golden State Off Ramp 5: Toy police car on the side of the road

Golden State Off Ramp 6: Notices of the Eviction - next to homeless shelters on Golden State blvd.

Golden State Off Ramp 7: The Homeless Have posted signs of their own

Santa Clara Street (looking east from E street):

The City of Fresno says they are going to destroy this homeless encampment later this month. For more information, see []

NOTE FROM NORSE of "Homeless United for Friendship and Freedom" in Santa Cruz []: 
The City of Fresno, though also attacking homeless encampments, has also been set back by successful lawsuits.  Plus the sheer volume of homeless people setting up camp in these houseless times because they have to.  In response Mike Rhodes and the Fresno Homeless Alliance has been providing TP and dumpsters as well as servicing to deal with the public health crisis that the City will not.  Santa Cruz activists, contemplating encampments here, might cast an eye Fresno-wise. 
2013-03-01 message from Mike Rhodes, Editor of "Community Alliance Newspaper" []:
This afternoon I delivered the last 30 rolls of donated toilet paper to the homeless encampments in downtown Fresno.  As you may know, we have seven portable toilets in 4 different encampments and they go through a lot of TP.  I have hired a homeless guy to supply each of the portable toilets with TP each day.  He puts 3 rolls in a locked dispenser and keeps the portable toilets free of clothing and other trash.  It is really working out great, except that now we are completely out of TP. 
If you can help, please drop off packages of TP to my office at the Fresno Center for Nonviolence, 1584 N Van Ness (on the southeast corner of Van Ness and McKinley).  We are open Monday - Friday from 11 a.m. - 3 p.m.  You can also call the center at 237-3223 - Richard Gomez is often there before or after regular hours (and weekends) and can let you in to drop off the TP.
Alternatively, you can send a check to The Eco Village Project of Fresno, C/O Mike Rhodes, 4773 N Arthur Ave, Fresno Ca 93705 and we can buy TP in bulk at wholesale prices.  Either way works, but we need to do something soon.
Also, we have placed a couple of large trash bins at 2 of the homeless encampments and that is helping to keep them a lot cleaner.  Again, I’m hiring homeless people to do the difficult work of clearing the garbage from the encampments and putting it into the dumpsters.  This has been going on for a couple of weeks now and you can see a big difference in the encampments where we have located the trash bins.  You can help support this effort by sending a check to the above address.

2013-03-14 message from Mike Rhodes, Editor for "Community Alliance Newspaper" []: 
The Fresno Bee article about the Press Conference held yesterday at Ventura and F street is below. Note that at the end of the article City Council member Oliver Baines blames the lawsuit for their problems.  Just when they get some momentum going to keep the streets clean, they get sued. . . according to Baines.  For some reason, The Bee did not mention that the Community Alliance is able to put 8 portable toilets and 3 dumpsters at the encampment without incident.  If we can help keep the encampments clean without destroying homeless peoples property, why can't the city do the same thing?  Maybe they should call me up and ask for our secret.
2013-03-13 "Residents near downtown Fresno urge faster city action on homeless trash"  by BoNhia Lee from "The Fresno Bee" []:
Residents who live south of downtown Fresno know the homeless problem in their neighborhood won't be solved right away. But they think the piles of trash that come from the homeless are an easy fix.
Members of the Golden Westside Planning Committee and residents who live in tidy houses near Ventura Avenue and E Street held a news conference Wednesday to urge city officials to clean up their neighborhood.
Late Wednesday, city officials said they're working on a solution.
The group gathered in front of a small alley on Ventura Avenue, between E and F streets, where trash had accumulated over the last four months.
Capri Sun juice packets, restaurant takeout boxes, clothes, blankets, hangers, soup cans and more were scattered on the ground.
The trash "carries feces, it carries roaches, it carries rats, it carries all kinds of things as our children walk through the neighborhood," said Debbie Darden, the group's chairwoman. "It's an ongoing problem. We feel it's the responsibility of the city of Fresno to act on it quickly and on a regular basis to get it cleaned up."
The trash is what you would see in Third-World countries like Pakistan and Nigeria, said Kevin Hamilton, deputy chief of programs for Clinica Sierra Vista.
"When you have piles of trash sitting around for months, it gets wet, the elements start to work on it and it becomes a place where bacteria live," Hamilton said. "This is truly a health hazard to our community."
The committee and resident Jeff Tapscott said calls to Council Member Oliver Baines, who represents the area, the mayor and city manager since January have not resulted in a cleanup yet.
"The trash never seems to leave," said Tapscott, who has lived in the neighborhood for 17 years. "I pick up what I can pick up."
Their suggestion: put Dumpsters in the alleys and on the streets.
When contacted on Wednesday, city spokesman Mike Lukens said in a written statement that the city will put trash bins in the neighborhood.
"The city will cooperate with residents in the neighborhood and place trash bins there, but we're also working on an overall cleanup of the area," Lukens said.
Baines said residents should expect to see the trash cleaned up within a month.
"I share their frustration," Baines said. "They're right. It's an issue that needs to be taken care of."
But the process takes time, Baines said. The city has to figure out whether the property that needs cleaning is publicly or privately owned. Then there are the lawsuits.
The city has been sued by homeless advocates twice before for destruction of property after cleaning up homeless encampments.
"It really slows the process down and almost stops the process all together," Baines said. "That has been a big hinderance. Just when we get the momentum going we get hit with the lawsuit and we have to of course work through all that."

2013-02-11 "Fresno has no Heart - Will Evict the Homeless on Valentines Day"
by Mike Rhodes from "Fresno Community Alliance" []:
 Mike Rhodes is the editor of the Community Alliance newspaper. He can be reached by email at [editor (].
The photo below shows the north end of the Monterey and E street homeless encampment.

An eviction of a significant number of homeless people at a downtown encampment will probably take place on Thursday, February 14. According to residents of the homeless encampment, located near Monterey and E street, they were told by the owner of the property they are living on that they have until Thursday to “move on.” The owner was accompanied by several officers from the Fresno Police Department and a truck & crew from the Fire Department.
 One homeless man told me this afternoon (Monday, February 11) that the owner of the property said he would be bulldozing the vacant lot on Thursday and everything would be destroyed. “He told me to get the fuck out of here,” he shared with me as he sorted through recycled items sitting in several shopping carts on the property. When I asked if he was sure it was the owner, he said “well, he had the police with him, so it looked pretty convincing to me.”
 Unlike other evictions by the City of Fresno, there are no signs posted to notify the residents of the demolition that is to come. Julie (not her real name), said someone had posted an eviction notice about a month ago, but those were torn down within an hour or two. The owner told her that he did not have to post notices because it is his property.
 There was an eviction that took place in the spring of 2012 at another homeless encampment, behind the grain silos near Palm and H street, that was similar. This was private property, the owner made numerous attempts to force the homeless to move, and eventually put a fence around the property to force the eviction. Many of the homeless people from that encampment moved about 200 feet south and occupied a different vacant lot. They have not been threatened with eviction again, as far as I know.
 Most of the residents at the Monterey and E street homeless encampment who are being threatened with eviction said they were planning on moving, but I was told that not everyone would pack up and move. I was told that it is only the north end of the encampment that has been threatened with eviction. The dividing line is Monterey street. Everything north of Monterey street will likely be destroyed on Thursday. Everything south of Monterey street is said to be safe from the demolition.
 Can the owner of a vacant lot take and immediately destroy homeless peoples property? Did the City of Fresno threaten the owner with legal action if he did not move against the homeless? Will FPD officers participate in the demolition or arrest anyone if they resist? Observers are needed starting early Thursday morning. If you can help, meet at the encampment starting at 7 a.m. on Thursday. Bring your video or still camera to document what takes place. If you can’t come until later, let me know so we can coordinate having someone there all day.
 Demolitions of homeless encampments in October and November of 2011 resulted in over 30 lawsuits against the City of Fresno claiming that the city violated homeless peoples legal rights by taking and immediately destroying their property. Those cases are working their way through the court. Without this litigation it is likely that the city would have been more aggressive in their attacks on the homeless. A new strategy of forcing property owners to evict the homeless may be emerging as City Hall seeks to avoid additional lawsuits.

"Another view of the norht end of the encampment" by Mike Rhodes Monday Feb 11th, 2013 5:43 PM

"This shows the entire area impacted by the evictions" by Mike Rhodes Monday Feb 11th, 2013 5:43 PM

"Typical Shelter in the Area" by Mike Rhodes Monday Feb 11th, 2013 5:43 PM

"This is the center of the homeless encampment looking north" by Mike Rhodes Monday Feb 11th, 2013 5:43 PM

2013-02-17 "Burning the Homeless out"
by Mike Rhodes []
This is a follow up to an earlier Indybay article about an eviction of homeless people at the Monterey and E street encampment in Fresno.
As I drove toward the Monterey and E street homeless encampment on Valentine’s Day, I could see a huge plume of smoke rising into the sky. When I got a little closer I could hear and then see the fire trucks screaming towards the smoke. They got there about 5 minutes ahead of me, but they already had most of the fire under control by the time I arrived.
 I was going to the encampment to check out reports that the owner was going to bulldoze the vacant lot, inhabited by about 100 homeless people in downtown Fresno.
 After taking a few photos of the scene I headed over to the police and what looked to be the fire department supervisor. I asked the officer if there was anything suspicious about the fire. He looked puzzled. I told him that the owner of the property had told the residents that he was going to bulldoze the encampment today. More puzzlement in the eyes of the two guys I was talking to. I said, “have you looked into the possibility that the owner started the fire to force the homeless from this area?” This the police officer seemed to understand and he assured me that nothing like that had happened. “How do you know that?” I asked. “Well, these people out here would make a complaint if something like that had happened. Oh, they do all kinds of things themselves, but if something happens to them they will file a complaint.”
 Seemed to me that the officer had some bias against the homeless and unlike any other house fire in this town, there would be no investigation of what happened here. After all, these were just homeless people, squatting on somebody’s land. Arson? An attempt to evict the people that lived there? Obviously, the police or the fire department were not going to be bothered to investigate what had happened.
 This is one of the realities of the homeless encampments in Fresno. There are a lot of fires, some of which are caused by candles and other light or heat sources. Sometimes, as Gloria (a homeless woman who used to live in the area) told me, there are people who will burn your house down because you owe them $10.
 Several people told me that the fire on Valentine’s Day was not due to the vigilantism of the property owner, but was the result of a personal dispute.
 The eviction by the owner, who told everyone he was going to bulldoze their property, did not happen. This is not unusual and has become a pattern in Fresno. What usually happens is that you have a property owner who may or may not care that homeless people are living on his property. He or she is contacted by someone from the City of Fresno (usually code enforcement or the police) and they are told they have to do something about the homeless encampment on their property.
 If the owner does not move to dislodge the homeless the city official will ratchet up the pressure. This could be in the form of telling the owner that if they don’t remove the homeless, the city will do it and send them a bill for the clean up. Another approach I have seen them use is to threaten the owner, saying that if they don’t remove the homeless, they will make life more difficult for them. In one case they told a home owner with obvious code violations that if they did not remove the homeless people from their property they would come and do an inspection. If the homeless people move, then there will be no pesky government officials turning over every stone at your house to make sure you are in 100% compliance of all local, state, and federal laws. You get the idea.
 In this case, the owner came out to the encampment on Monterey and E streets, with the fire department and the police watching his back (from a safe distance) as he threatened them with eviction and a bulldozer on Valentine’s Day. This created enough anxiety among the homeless that at least ½ of them moved away. That was the desired result. If the city and property owner can get the homeless to leave, without bringing out the bulldozer, that is a win for them.
 Most homeless people don’t want to be a part of a confrontation and they will move on when threatened with the destruction of their property. Of course, they usually just move over to the next vacant lot and the process starts all over again.

Why was their no investigation of this house fire?

If any other home burned in Fresno, there would be an investigation.

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