On Jan. 24, Fresno County Supervisors approved the county sheriff to purchase a new $450,000 vehicle for homeless encampment sweeps. The vehicle will include a 22-foot van body, office space, air conditioning, a bathroom, generator, and power awning.
The vehicle is intended to aid deputies as they carry out homeless encampment sweep operations on large camps. Deputies will be granted the privilege of shelter, warmth, and basic necessities as they take on longer and more rigorous sweeps. In other words, deputies will receive comfort as they strip it away from those who are desperately in need of it.
Homeless encampment sweeps have been an ongoing obstacle to Fresno’s homeless populations. Having already been left with minimal possessions, these sweeps threaten to take away what little homeless individuals have left to cling to.
This self-indulgent purchase sends a clear message: homeless lives are of little concern to Fresno County.
Amidst higher rents, lower wages, and housing shortages, situations for low-income Fresnans have become increasingly dire.
Now, in addition to concerns for basic necessities, homeless camps in Fresno will have to worry about being ousted from their small settlements, all while the deputy lounges in a ventilated and spacious vehicle.
Unsurprisingly, local advocates and homeless individuals have responded to the sheriff’s purchase with confusion, frustration, and fear.
In a recent interview with Fresnoland, Dez Martinez, a local homelessness advocate, expressed discontent with the impending use of the vehicle. “Why again do the officers need to be treated with humanity while the unhoused are not treated with humanity?”
In my opinion, the main issue of this situation are the priorities of Fresno County. This astounding negligence to the needs of the homeless not only stems from a disdain for marginalized communities, but also the degrading tendencies of Fresno’s Sheriff Department.
Fresno law officials have commonly uplifted individuals who are well-cared for, while looking down upon those who are not. In fact, according to an article posted by Bob McCloskey on Community Alliance, Fresno County has no actual intentions of helping homeless individuals once a sweep has taken place. He goes on to say that deputies are “belligerent and mean to the unhoused residents, demanding that they hurry up and move their belongings.”
I believe the purchase is a testament to the selfishness and lack of compassion from Fresno County regarding its considerably large homeless population. Rather than focus on reducing homelessness, Fresno has decided to more effectively condemn those who experience it.
In the same article from Fresnoland, it said the money for this vehicle will be coming from a civil automation fund – an accumulation of fees people pay to the sheriff’s office to get their various needs accommodated. With a budget of $1.27 million for this year, the recent purchase of the vehicle has depleted a significant portion of this total.
To spend such a staggering amount on a vehicle that is intended to “give the deputies and other agency personnel the ability to get out of the elements,” as revealed by a recent county report, is a terrifying display of not only economic irresponsibility, but also blatant cruelty.
Why is it that the deputies would take such drastic measures to keep themselves out of unsanitary and potentially hazardous conditions, while refusing to help those who live in them?
Instead of enhancing a system that drives homeless people out from their small havens, a more appropriate use of the $450,000 would be putting it towards better housing, more homeless shelters, or more resources for them to get access to healthcare, food, jobs, and most importantly, homes.
Below is what some of The kNOw’s youth reporters had to say about the situation: