Updated: Thursday, February 18th 2021
FOX26NEWS By Rich Rodriguez
Homeless encampments are slowly disappearing from Fresno's freeways.
So are canal banks next on the list?
Homeless encampments have been a problem for the Fresno Irrigation District for years.
They're costly and they create all kinds of problems.
The water that runs through Fresno doesn't just benefit growers. It also streams to Fresno and Clovis water systems.
Bill Stretch, general manager of Fresno Irrigation District said, "Ensuring that our canals are clean and free of debris and any bio-hazards that sometimes exist in the encampments is hugely important."
FID spends between $50,000 to $100,000 a year cleaning up piles of trash left by the homeless.
In years past the Fresno Police Department's Homeless Task Force moved in to clean up the mess.
Now that Jerry Dyer is Mayor, the two sides have had discussions about the homeless problem.
"We've clearly identified all the sites on the canal system on the GIS map, provided them the data," said Mayor Dyer. "So they have a much better understanding I'd say today than they did four months ago exactly how bad the problem is."
The leader of Project Off-Ramp says the top priority is moving the homeless off Fresno freeways.
That's due to three traffic fatalities involving street people plus the 618 freeway fires started last year.
H. Spees says encampments can be found on canals, near railroad tracks, and county islands.
"We are all talking to each other," said Spees. "Our long-term goal is not to play whack-a-mole. Not to just chase folks from one jurisdiction to another."
Thursday the Fresno City Council agreed to commit more federal dollars to buy motels.
"Our strategy with the motels is to acquire them, use them quickly for covid shelters, convert them to affordable housing so they provide safe exits to permanent housing for those in our homeless service delivery system."
For now, freeways come first due to safety, so clearing canals is down the road.