Support for Fresno's Unhoused Residents
My name is Erin Ray and I became involved with Dez Martinez (wanif.org) and her efforts after making some donations to her Project H2O. I increased my support after the recent fire on the side of the 180 that engulfed a homeless encampment and she began this new safe camp using resources from the community. There has been a great deal of community level support for her idea, but current policy and punitive perspectives of some local government leaders are significant barriers. I wrote this letter of support from the community on behalf of the residents of this new camp:

August 5, 2020

Open Letter to Fresno Leadership:

We have received information that there are officials in opposition to the efforts of the community to provide a safer, socially distanced encampment setting (located within District 3) for a few of our thousands of unhoused residents. We understand that there are many logistical concerns. However, this safer camp community is an alternative to dangerous encampments on the side of the highway or near areas of public use that are a nuisance to businesses and homeowners. The neighboring businesses have learned of what this group of homeless individuals is doing and have been impressed and offered their support. There is no reason for Fresno officials to go out of their way to cause harm to these individuals who just want to be safer and have their human dignity recognized and respected.

The area is clear of debris and is not a fire risk. The residents have even been cleaning up the surrounding street of trash left by others. Compared to the sanitation disaster next to the Poverello House (in part due to a lack of proper servicing by the sanitation department) this camp is immaculate. In light of the rising COVID-19 cases in Fresno, this is how people who have not yet found housing are trying to do their part to curb community spread.

There are a number of community members city-wide who have helped resource the responsible efforts of some of the most vulnerable in our community. We strongly encourage Fresno leadership to engage a higher ethic in this instance while contributing to effective solutions for the thousands of unhoused, displaced, and soon to be evicted Fresno residents. In the meantime, cease opposition to their efforts to create safer outdoor spaces during this health crisis, because these punitive actions are doing great harm.

We ask that the leadership charged with caring for Fresno’s struggling population would prioritize a greater effort toward housing with dignity and the ability to have personal boundaries rather than dorm-style shelters that are inappropriate for victims of trauma. Officials and concerned citizens are invited to come visit the camp location to see for themselves. Entrance to the encampment requires a mask and proper social distancing.

The undersigned represent just a few of the many community members who support the efforts of this socially distanced camp:

[Add your Name and City or County district in the form below and press submit]



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Sharing this letter with friends is a way to raise community support for innovation and creativity in housing with dignity. We want these efforts to grow through relationships and collaborative discussion. This will be a letter that can be produced in the face of any further opposition. Even if the camp is "swept" (as they call it) and required to move who knows where, we need to make sure the community is aware of the efforts of the homeless community to be safer and why forced removal would actually be damaging to our city's safety without a viable alternative. Offerings of services and housing are not unwelcome, though many feel safer outside right now rather than indoors with poor ventilation. If you would like to add your name in solidarity please fill in the form below.
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WANI Safe Camp
To learn more about how you can support or donate:
Visit wanif.org or message Homeless in Fresno We Are Not Invisible on Facebook
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