On Jan. 24, Fresno County Supervisors approved the county sheriff to purchase a new Ford F650 vehicle with a custom-built 22-foot van body, outfitted with office space, air conditioning, a bathroom, generator and power awning.
On Jan. 24, Fresno County Supervisors approved the county sheriff to purchase a new Ford F650 vehicle with a custom-built 22-foot van body, outfitted with office space, air conditioning, a bathroom, generator and power awning. Omar Rashad / Fresnoland

What's at stake:

The Fresno County Sheriff's Office will purchase a new $450,000 vehicle for homeless encampment sweeps, but unhoused people and advocates question whether it's the best use of funds.

Mary Mason knows how a homeless encampment sweep goes down. She has been through one before, and so has almost everyone she knows. 

The reality of being homeless is dire, Mason said. A lot of it is wondering where you’re going to get your next meal, where to go if it starts raining, or the next time you’ll be able to shower. 

It’s wrong, she said, for law enforcement agencies to then come into a homeless encampment, push out its residents and throw away “what little they own.”

“It’s degrading, and it’s painful,” Mason said. “Whatever we have, that’s what we have. It’s our belongings. And for them to take it away — they know we have nowhere else to go, and we have to start all over.”

Soon, it may be easier for Fresno County Sheriff deputies to sweep large homeless encampments, as county officials recently approved a proposal to purchase a $450,000 custom vehicle for large homeless encampment sweep operations

On Jan. 24, Fresno County Supervisors approved the county sheriff to purchase a new Ford F650 vehicle with a custom-built 22-foot van body, outfitted with office space, air conditioning, a bathroom, generator and power awning.

“The specialty vehicle will give the deputies and other agency personnel the ability to get out of the elements,” which can include extremely hot or cold weather while doing homeless encampment sweeps, according to a county report.

The money for the new vehicle comes from the Fresno County Sheriff’s civil automation fund – pooled from a share of fees people pay so the sheriff’s office can serve court documents for them — from eviction notices to divorce papers. With a budget of $1.27 million this year, the fund is typically used for buying office supplies, new equipment and upgrading software, said Sergeant Scott Weishaar. 

The new vehicle would greatly aid in sweeping large encampments that take more resources and agencies working together, said Weishaar, who is part of the sheriff’s office civil unit, which is in charge of homeless encampment sweeps. 

Weishaar said the vehicle would serve as a command center, to coordinate agencies — including city and county law enforcement, environmental health and public works — involved in sweeping unhoused people, their belongings and any waste or trash. 

Beyond coordinating encampment sweeps, Weishaar added that the vehicle creates an indoor, air-conditioned space away from unsanitary conditions in homeless encampments. 

“You as a human, just like any law enforcement officer as a human, is probably going to operate better and more efficiently the more comfortable the working conditions are,” said Deputy Doug Richardson, another member of the sheriff’s team that carries out encampment sweeps.  

Richardson said over time, Fresno County sheriff deputies have learned better strategies for carrying out homeless encampment sweeps, and that the purchase of the new vehicle came from overall internal conversations on how to make their encampment sweep operations more efficient. 

“What kind of permanent solutions are we going to have in place in terms of dealing with this population and trying to offer services and do all of those things?” Richardson said. “So feedback was absolutely critical in how we came along in all of this.”

Is this the best use of funds?

Dez Martinez, a local homelessness advocate, said it doesn’t make sense to her how public officials and law enforcement are able to see their own needs but completely ignore how unhoused people are asking for many of the same things. 

“Why are we not using that $450,000 to house individuals, but we’re gonna use $450,000 so the officers can have a toilet to sit on?” Martinez said. “The unhoused people want a toilet to sit on too. They want to get out of the elements. They want a chair to sit at, a desk to sit at. They want to be treated like humans.”

Fresno County, like all other counties in California, is the lead agency responsible for administering local care to its residents for social services, which includes homelessness response.

Because the Fresno County Board of Supervisors approved the purchase of the new vehicle as an item on its Jan. 24 meeting’s consent agenda, the topic was passed unanimously by all five Fresno County supervisors and was not subject to a public discussion. 

Martinez, who found out about the new vehicle during an interview with Fresnoland, said its approval felt sneaky, adding that most residents in Fresno County do not have the luxury of attending Fresno County’s Board of Supervisors meetings, which happen every other Tuesday at 9:30 a.m.

“It’s just frustrating finding out something like this passed,” Martinez said. “Why again do the officers need to be treated with humanity while the unhoused are not treated with humanity?”

Martinez added that purchasing this vehicle does not demonstrate Fresno County officials are listening and trying to help unhoused people. 

“It’d be nice to be able to provide more housing and stuff like that, but law regulates how this money can be used,” said Weishaar, the Fresno Sheriff’s Office sergeant, adding that the new vehicle will benefit the agencies involved in homeless encampment sweeps and “hopefully help the homeless in some way.”

Mason, who has been unhoused for two years, said her heart broke when she found out about the county officials approving the new vehicle for homeless encampment sweeps.

“We’re nothing to them. They don’t care about us,” Mason said. “That money can be spent a lot more wisely.”

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Omar Shaikh Rashad is the government accountability reporter for Fresnoland.

Join the Conversation


  1. I think it’s time we got decent people together and we run for elected office, replacing the Fresno County Board of Supervisors and the new Fresno County Sheriff.

    Me: ex-paralegal, 60, yr 5 in my car in Fresno due to problems from life-long epilepsy. No drugs/drink/crimes.

    Shelters are hell holes. Dangerous. Murder threats. Assaults. Medications stolen. Untrained staff. No audits. My grade of them: F’s.

    The fact that we are older, sicker, and have worked is lost on these officials. It’s time for new problem solvers to be elected.

  2. This is an outrageous waste of tax dollars, especially considering that Fresno County does not provide: 1) bus passes to get to housing placement appointments every two weeks, 2) does not send out county case workers to meet unsheltered clients at a fast food place or coffee place; 3) the county says they have NO money to help with transportation; and 4) Fresno County punitively closes a client’s housing placement case for missing two meetings.

    Fresno County did this to me, once for having no transportation to a county housing meeting and no gas money! I’m a former paralegal from the San Francisco Bay Area, priced out due to skyrocketing rents, and disabled by problems from life-long epilepsy.

    I missed my second county housing appointment because I was hospitalized for an illness. I did call and tell the county that I was in the hospital, couldn’t make my appointment for that reason.

    Fresno County counted this as “a second strike” against me, and closed my case.

    A local “Christian” group has convinced churches NOT to help people, and to only give money to the Christian group, which doesn’t help people.

    So if you call local churches, you are told that you won’t receive help with a bus pass or gas to make your county housing appt, because that would be “enabling”!

    I am epileptic, with misfiring neurons in my brain, NOT a substance users. I have NO criminal history.

    Fresno County closed by housing case, for two missed appointments, no help with transportation.

  3. No tienen corazon son cosas sin sentimientos igualito Al reportero humillan alos sin hogar porque tienen ojala muy pronto pacen por algo asi y peor y Sean pisoteados como dice el dicho con la bar que Midas areas medido

  4. I’m sorry; but there is so much offered to and for the homeless population, they choose not to take advantage of, or they just don’t want to live by society rules. All that is needed is the will to want more for your self. The world hasn’t given up on them, they have given up on the world.

    1. You obviously don’t know what you are talking about. There AREN’T services for the homeless, many whom like me are older, law-abiding, and sicker (me:epilepsy). You should try out our homeless shelters & services. You’ll see just how bad it is. My grade of them (former paralegal, A’s college) is: F’s.

    2. I always say to people who claim that stabilizing homeless people within 2 wks with safe housing, income, and support services is “socialism” (gasp), that people have to “earn it”, then that applies to others’ use of highways, roads, water, power, sewage, and 911 (police/fire/EMT’s). Well you really shouldn’t use any of them. You need to “prove” that you are worthy of using them. They are really expensive, after all.

  5. Hi I would like to tell you not everyone,out on the streets living are bad people. For me back in February last year I had to vacate my apartment, do to a fire that caused great damage. So l thought okay I have my vocher for housing no problem I’ll find another apt. That’s when I found out how it works on renting you have to have credit well I lived in my apt 13 years and never established credit to make this story shorter I wond up losing my voucher and rent doubled. Now I’m just lost out here and I’m a senior person. I always thought you pay your rent and get along with others you won’t be on the streets living .Fresno City needs to be ashamed of the way they are handling the grave situation. I’ve did all the referrals and went to maps which was a joke . Never could get a homeless motel . I’ve also seen first hand the way people are being stereotyped by the public .one thing is that every person who to think about this if this could just happened to me it could possibly happen to you as well. People in glass houses shouldn’t thow stones and these church people that have been controlling a lot of this I really fill for you more Cause Just by the Grace Go I…!!!!!!

    1. Tony, I agree with you. MAPS housing trailer at Poverello is a joke. I say this as a former SF Bay Area paralegal, A’s college, who worked for Ivy League attorneys at top law firms. We were deadline driven, and meticulous.

      At MAPS I was met with failed promises, missed deadlines, incompetence, and a high-employee turnover rate. MAPS was a nightmare. If they were attorneys, they’d lose their licenses to practice law in California.

  6. Tony, I am so sorry to hear of your situation and loss of housing. 74% of we who are homeless are NOT substance abusers. We’ve had a major destabilizing event. Medical problem, 3-20 yr fight for Social Security disability, loss of job, not enough $ to afford rent, etc.

    I’ve got epilepsy. Former paralegal. 60. No drugs/drink/crimes. A’s college. Law firm jobs. I changed CA law for high-risk crime victims (Safe at Home, admin CA Sec of State).

    Praying for you.

  7. Tony, Try to get into the following for housing:
    1) LinkCare on Shaw Ave (must show income of $1400 per month; rent is about $600 per month)
    2) Salvation Army apts downtown Fresno;
    3) St. Agnes Glen (old hospital converted into apts);
    4) Low income apts Clovis. Human Good, I think runs them. I will double check the name. As your public librarian for an assist.

  8. I wanted to let everyone know how many obstacles Fresno County puts in our paths to get housing. (Me: 60, ex-SF Bay Area paralegal, life-long epilepsy probs (a brain condition), A’s college, law firm jobs, no drugs/drink/crimes, yr 5 homeless in car in Fresno).

    The County demanded reference letters from all of the shelters I stayed at. All shelters were abusive and dangerous.

    A liberal run shelter, full of sex harassment of we women clients by men clients, bizarre accusations against women clients, favoritism toward abusive men, and a Megan’s List convicted sex offender (his name & photo on the Calif Atty General’s website) on their Board (I just the Board’s backgrounds, I became so suspicious of their bizarre, unprofessional behavior).

    That liberal shelter was single-handedly able to stall my County housing case because the (woman) owner refused to write me a written recommendation. When she finally did write it, she didn’t sign it as the County required, so they couldn’t use it.

    Fresno County has some of the cruelest rules around to get people housed.

    I now tell people applying for housing, “Don’t tell Fresno County that you stayed at any shelters. Say that they were full and didn’t have any room. If you tell The County you stayed at any shelter, the County WILL delay your housing placement case, requiring you to obtain a reference. The County will do anything to trip up getting you housed. DON’T LET THEM!”

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