Wednesday, October 23, 2013

"The Grain Silo/Canal Bank Homeless Encampment is Destroyed"

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

2013-10-23 photographs and text by Mike Rhodes ( editor [at] ) []:
The City of Fresno continued their attacks on the homeless today by destroying the last encampment in the downtown area. The photo below shows one protester stopping a bulldozer as it tried to enter the encampment.

The City of Fresno destroyed the last remaining homeless encampment in the downtown area today. The assault on the Grain Silo/Canal Bank homeless encampment started at dawn and continued throughout the day. By 7:30 a.m. homeless advocates had blocked the two main roads into the encampment, preventing bulldozers and other city vehicles from entering.
 The city work crews shifted their strategy to focus on a handful of tents and other structures in a field on the other side of the railroad tracks. Bulldozers, garbage trucks, police and other support vehicles came down a dirt road on a canal bank to start the demolition. The handful of homeless people at that location were told to remove their property or it would be stored. The destruction of the structures at that location took several hours, while the homeless advocates maintained their vigil at the main encampment.
 Eventually the city focused their attention on the much larger encampment and tried to bring in their bulldozers on a road that ran parallel to the railroad tracks on the south side of the camp. They were met by 10 - 15 homeless advocates who refused to allow the city vehicles to pass. After negotiations with Jim Betts, an attorney working for the City of Fresno, an agreement was reached to allow a U-Haul truck in to move some of the property.
 As the homeless and their allies were loading the U-Haul a second bulldozer came down a road at the north end of the camp. One of the protesters jumped on the bulldozers claw and the city soon withdrew that vehicle.
 The protesters, having gained time to help move the homeless, stepped back and two bulldozers and a garbage truck entered the encampment and started destroying what was left on the south end. It appeared that all of the homeless had moved out of that area and the property remaining had been stored.
 I had to leave by mid afternoon, but it appeared that the city would have the entire encampment leveled by the end of the day. Several City of Fresno representatives told me that a fence would be put up on Thursday to keep anyone from re-establishing an encampment at that location.
 Meanwhile, in other parts of town, homeless people are having their property confiscated if it is left unattended. I was also shown a citation one homeless person received yesterday that charged them with an infraction for leaving “debris in the road” which was, they say, their property. To see an earlier story about this new police tactic in Fresno, see: []
 To see what groups working in support of the homeless will do next, see: []

Protesters Arrived at Dawn

The City Started the Attack in an Unexpected Location

Bulldozer stopped by the Protesters

Negotiations take place with Jim Betts (Center), the attorney representing the City of Fresno

A U-Haul Truck was used to help people move. You can see the protesters stopping the city equipment, to the left of the U-Haul

Loading property onto the U-Haul

Protesters Hold Their Ground

Destruction of the encampment

Some people moved their property across the RR tracks

One of the Signs Posted by the Homeless - to save their property

Cinnamon, one of the homeless residents, Called out for Help

What is left: This photo shows what remains of the Grain Silo/Canal Bank homeless encampment the day after the City of Fresno came in with their bulldozers and garbage trucks.

"Two days after 61st birthday…"
2013-10-26 by Mike Rhodes ( editor [at] ):
I received this today (Saturday, October 26) from one of the former residents of the Grain Silo/Canal Bank homeless encampment:
Two days after 61st birthday…
Hello, I’m Nancy. I’m someone’s mother, a grandmother, a good friend and a homeless senior citizen. Ten months of day to day at times five-ten minutes of uncertainty. Safety is first in mind, from weather to strangers. Pushing a cart on the street, through a park or just in a dark area, the fear overwhelms.
I was left homeless, without a clue to my immediate survival last January. Nightfall brought freezing cold. Two nights in Roeding Park, seems that every kind of Fresno’s criminal are in and out of the shadows. I have never been so frightened.
I was rescued and invited to just rest or stay at the Clinton and Marks encampment. It was destroyed by the city in early March. Moving around again… A second time, I was rescued, invited to the canal encampment by Sinamon, and welcomed by Shanti (a really large and friendly dog).
We are all respectful of anothers space/area. Any emergency big or small, every resident gives their help in earnest. Our gathering at this camp has few problems of any magnitude.
It’s been eight months at the Canal encampment. Neighbors help others if they are able. Some need and are allowed their solitude.
We are just people, all with events, situations, decisions and issues that brought us here. Each of us with a story and a history. Some are more at ease with life as it is. Some want to get back to a structured comfortable life. Not all are criminals, lost on drugs or “infidels” as described by some prominent citizen of Fresno.
We are real people in jeopardy of losing our dignity once again, sleeping in dark corners, pushing a few belongings in a grocery cart aimlessly, all thought and energy, spent finding food and safety for a night, maybe eight-ten hours.
The Canal Encampment has twenty residents. Nine are fifty-five or older. When the city of Fresno destroys the shelters we’ve constructed. They have put the weakest members of the homeless community in direct danger of freezing to death this winter.
The Canal Encampment has friends and support from the community. Their gift of portable toilets gave the residents a personal dignity and the Thursday Group provides precious water, clothes, pet food, hygiene products and bagels. They bring their concern and great conversation. Church organizations feed, clothe and pray for us. Veterinarians have given their time, knowledge and love for animals to our precious pets. For some of us, our pet is all the love and affection we have in our lives.

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