A Fresno City Councilmember has a new idea on dealing with the city’s homeless population – a law that would ban camping in the city. Councilmember Steve Brandau is set to take the proposed ordinance before the city council Thursday August 17th. If adopted, the law would ban camping on both public and private property in the city.
Brandau says he’s been getting complaints for months from constituents about people camping in the cooking, bathing and even defecating in public.
“I really believe it goes across the city. When I talk with my colleagues they’re getting the same type of phone calls I’m getting, complaints, and people in the community are getting very upset with what they perceiving happening in our community,” says Brandau.
Called the Unhealthy and Hazardous Camping Act 2017, Brandau's law would also make it illegal to store so-called “camping paraphernalia” on public or private property.
Brandau says he sees the proposed law as a tool law enforcement can use, as the homeless population has shifted from large centralized camps downtown into dispersed campsites across the community. He says the bill doesn’t target all of Fresno’s estimated 1800 person homeless community, just people who choose to live on the street and reject other forms of assistance.
“We have about 500 or 600 people who are living a camping lifestyle. They might be on some substance, but they know enough to say ‘I don’t want your help, I don’t want your services. I want to sleep in a tent in Fresno.’ We have case workers and law enforcement who say ‘hey we have a place for you.’ But they’re smart enough, they’re lucid enough, that’s what they prefer. It’s about 600 people, this no-camping policy would target their behaviors. We’re trying to say we’re not going to enable this lifestyle anymore,” says Brandau.
People who violate the law would be booked into jail, according to Brandau. He added that he doesn't envision city-wide sweeps of campsites.
“You’re not going to see a sweep of people, that’s not what this is about. You’re not going to see a large scale assault on a group of people. What you’re going to see is a tool in the toolbox that can be employed from time to time when deemed necessary to break up this behavior,” says Brandau.