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A little known homeless island

With violence erupting at a homeless encampment in downtown Fresno, some homeless choose to camp in the wilderness.
Few people know about it, and that's the way they want it kept.  While violence is erupting in at least one homeless encampment in downtown Fresno, some homeless are going to an isolated area to get away.  At least a dozen homeless are living on an island along the San Joaquin River, north of Woodward Park and east of Freeway 41.

Led by his dog "Dutchess," Richard Sloan takes his daily walk down to the river.  He crosses in a shallow area, looking for signs of homeless encampments.

Sloan's non profit, RiverTree Volunteers, cleans up the river and takes people canoeing.  He's very familiar with this area and the people who live here.

There are several elaborate camp sites.  One has an American flag flying on the front, flags circle the perimeter and clothes hanging on the line.  Another has a mat outside the tent, a place for trash, and even decorations.  Sloan speaks with one man who didn’t want to be on camera.

Sloan typically walks these camps with only his guard dog.  He says some homeless are doing their best to be tidy and go unnoticed, but others are on the run from police and cause problems.

There've been sex offenders that have had camps out here on the river.  And sometimes it's a, "ha ha, we know a camp you didn't find,’" said Sloan.

Sloan has compassion for the homeless, but gets frustrated by what's left behind in abandoned camps like this one.

“We find needles that are dangerous to humans and people, the broken glass,” said Sloan.

We found one homeless man sleeping on a bench back at the park entrance.  One visitor says it doesn't stop her from enjoying nature.

“They don't bother us, we don't bother them.  If someone bothers us then yeah, we take different precautions,” said Sarah Maldonado, visiting Native Park.

Some residents who live up and down the river are asking for it all to be cleaned up, but property lines and who's responsible for maintaining the land is a bureaucratic mess to try and navigate.

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Fresno, CA

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