The July 2006 Edition of Street Spirit

A publication of the American Friends Service Committee

 
 

National AFSC AFSC Economic Justice BOSS Website

 

 

In this issue:

Corruption at Oakland Housing Authority

Shot Through the Heart in S.F.

Legal Challenge to Cruel Attacks on SF Homeless

GRIP's Shelter in Richmond

HUD Plans to Demolish Public Housing in New Orleans

Fresno Homeless Attacked

Stonewalling by Bush's ICH on Homeless Issues

Are We Not Our Brother's Keeper

Congress Refuses to Raise the Minimum Wage

Beyond Prisons: Challenge to the Prison System

Penal Servitude

The U.S. Racial Wealth Gap

Poor Working Conditions for Immigrants

AFSC Sues Defense Dept. for Surveillance

Surveillance and Orwell's 1984

Enron's Good Fight

Poor Leonard's Almanack: On Self-Realization

July Poetry of the Streets

Child Slavery on African Cocoa Farms

The Worth of Education in the Phillipines


ARCHIVES

June 2006

May 2006

April 2006

March 2006

February 2006

January 2006

November 2005

October 2005

September 2005

August 2005

July 2005

June 2005

May 2005

April 2005

March 2005

February 2005

 

 

 


Street Spirit is published by American Friends Service Committee.

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The views expressed in Street Spirit are those of the individual authors alone, and not necessarily that of the American Friends Service Committee.

Fresno Homeless Attacked and Insulted by City Workers

Story and photo by Mike Rhodes

Attacks on homeless people in Fresno reached a new level as police and sanitation workers seized and crushed their shopping carts and destroyed their possessions.

"The homeless people that live here are the luckiest homeless in Fresno." Surprised by the statement, I asked undercover Fresno Police Officer Ray Wallace what he meant. "They have maid service. We come out and clean up for them about every other week." The cleaning party this day was particularly vigorous.

The letter handed out by the Fresno Police Department gave notice of the "clean up" and said they would "start at 8:00 a.m." I arrived at 7:50 a.m. and the destruction of property was already well under way. One homeless woman told me that everything she owned had been destroyed because she was a few minutes too late to save it. "I had paperwork in there that can't be replaced," she said.

Once the "clean up" crew had gone all the way down the Caltrans property on E Street (on the west side of E Street near Ventura), they swung around and headed down the east side of E Street. This caught the homeless community completely off guard.

Up until now, the City Sanitation Department would go down the Caltrans strip of land with a bulldozer, sweep it clean, and then leave. The homeless, every other time this had happened, simply moved their possessions to the other side of the street. After the clean-up crew was gone, homeless people would move back to the east side of the street and rebuild their encampment.

But, today the Fresno Sanitation Department, backed up by a larger-than-usual Fresno Police Department contingent, made a U turn and pulled onto the east side of E Street. Stunned homeless people watched as all the possessions they had removed from Caltrans property were loaded into the dump truck.

The shopping carts and piles of possessions stacked up on the sidewalk on the east side of E Street were thought to be safe because no notice had been given that there would be a change in procedures. Many homeless people had removed their possessions as instructed and then left to eat, work, or do whatever they would normally do on a Thursday morning.

As Officer Wallace directed the clean-up crew to throw away anything not in the possession of someone, homeless people still in the area mobilized to save whatever they could. One clean-up crew supervisor was overheard saying, "I wish I had a nickel for every cart we destroy."

Dallas Blanchard of Food Not Bombs tried to prevent workers from throwing homeless people's possessions away. He was forced from his position directly in back of the garbage truck. Lisa Apper, from St. Benedict Catholic Worker, stood in front of some shopping carts. She was repeatedly told to move but refused. Apper was able to save a couple of grocery carts full of items.

But that did not stop the police and the clean-up crew. They simply moved a few feet beyond Apper and threw entire carts into the dump truck. Several people tried to pull their possessions back to the west side of the street (Caltrans land); but they were told the garbage truck would be back to throw their things away. With no safe place to go, some homeless people just stood by their carts to protect them. The police and clean-up crew did not forcefully remove people to destroy their possessions.

Henry, an African American homeless man who lives on E Street, told me that Officer Wallace had prevented him from removing his tent. He said, "I was trying to untie my tent from the fence and this guy came up behind me and told me to leave. He was not in uniform and did not identify himself as a policeman. This guy (Wallace) hit my hands as I tried to untie my tent."

Henry said he was physically forced to leave his tent, which was then picked up by a bulldozer and put into a garbage truck. Henry is a diabetic. "My medicine was in that tent, everything I owned was in that tent and they just destroyed it," he said. Henry said the incident happened in April 2006. Another homeless person, Dee, told me she witnessed the incident. Wallace denies the assault took place.

After targeting both sides of E Street, the Fresno Police Department and the Sanitation Department headed for Santa Clara Street. Santa Clara runs into E and is in front of the Poverello House. Many of the homeless people who use the services at the Poverello House (food, clothing, and some medical services) leave their carts on Santa Clara.

There were about 20 carts there when the garbage truck arrived. None of the owners were with their carts. The truck backed up and workers started throwing one cart after another in, crushing them.

As word of the destruction spread, the owners came running out of the Poverello House yelling at the city workers to stop. Those people who made it there in time and stood in front of their carts were able to save their possessions from destruction.

I requested a comment from the Fresno Police Department about the incidents above, but at the time of our deadline, they did not respond.

Mike Rhodes is editor of the Community Alliance newspaper in Fresno. He can be contacted by email at MikeRhodes@Comcast.net


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