This editorial appeared in The Fresno Bee.
Fresno is taking the first steps in a 10–year program to address the growing problem of homelessness in the city. It will not be easy or cheap, but it is an essential task, and one that will require the support and participation of the entire community.
Officials estimate there are about 2,000 homeless people in Fresno. The number may be higher; the homeless are difficult to track by the very nature of their circumstances. The current recession has caused the numbers to surge, but those additional people are layered on top of many chronically homeless, some of whom have been living on the streets for years.
There are many approaches to the homeless problem that have been effective to a degree in other cities. None is perfect, and it is unlikely that the problem can ever be fully eradicated.
One thing appears clear: Criminalization of homelessness is not a useful answer. The city learned that lesson painfully in a $2.35 million settlement last year won by advocates for homeless people whose belongings were seized and trashed in a sweep of encampments by the city.
There is a portion of the community that would prefer to round up the homeless and deposit them somewhere – anywhere – so long as it is out of sight. But that's not only a callous approach, it won't pass constitutional muster.
To read the complete editorial, visit The Fresno Bee.