For The Madera Tribune
A homeless camp, as seen under the Gateway Drive bridge.
I was one of those residents who spoke before the Madera City Council Sept. 6, and requested the issue of the chronically homeless in Madera be placed upon the council’s agenda for discussion and asked that the issue be addressed soon.
We thanked the council for supporting the cleanup of the large homeless encampment just north of the Tozer bridge, but said the homeless population had apparently scattered into other areas of the riverbed in the city.
I also invited the council to take a stroll across the Gateway Drive Bridge in the center of our city. There are many new tents, tarps and shacks lining both sides of that river area, along with large piles of discarded possessions and trash scattered all over.
Some residents say they now often hesitate to walk or let children use the river trail pathways because of the mess, illegal activities and possible encounters with the homeless.
Local Realtor Renee Benoit agreed and said the issue was complex but the homeless blight negatively effects the appearance and livability of some areas of Madera. She suggested initially providing services such as trash dumpsters and portable toilets for the homeless to hopefully use. “That way it will be more sanitary and less of a health issue in and along the riverbed,” Benoit said.
Residents have also been concerned with a potentially large increase in the homeless population should Fresno succeed with its new ordinance outlawing camping on private or public properties later this month. Many of their estimated 1,500 or so homeless individuals will soon be looking for new places to live and camp.
Madera residents may be unsure whom to contact about ongoing problems with homeless individuals. A local commission or office on chronic homelessness could be formed.
Critics say the gist of the problem is that a large portion of the longer-term homeless have chosen the lifestyle and may be beyond help, as they subsequently refuse all efforts to get them into drug or alcohol treatment, work, mental health or other available rehabilitation programs.
The next regular meeting of the Madera City Council is September 20th, at 6 pm, at 205 West 4th Street. The public is invited to attend.
— DJ Becker,