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Homeless Advocates Sue San Francisco To End Homeless Encampment Sweeps

Suit notes a lack of public housing, encampment sweeps against homeless

By Evan Symon, September 29, 2022 2:20 am

A lawsuit by a coalition of homeless advocates was filed by the ACLU and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area against the City and County of San Francisco on Wednesday.

The lawsuit, filed in the Northern District of California U.S. District Court, names “Coalition of Homelessness” as the plaintiff along with many homeless and homeless advocate individuals with the County and City of San Francisco, the San Francisco Police Department, the San Francisco Department of Public Works, the San Francisco Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing, the San Francisco Fire Department, the San Francisco Department of Emergency Management, Mayor London Breed, and the Director of the Healthy Streets Operation Center Sam Dodge as the defendants.

According to the suit, the Coalition alleges that the defendants have not taken significant action on addressing the worsening homeless problem within the city. Specifically they note that the city has not built affordable housing, has utilized encampment sweeps without offering shelter and taking the belongings of the homeless, and has threatened to arrest them, with the latter two allegations breaking city and county law.

“San Francisco presents the image of a caring municipality with a plan to address homelessness, but decades of inaction on affordable housing has left thousands forced to use tents and vehicles as shelter,” the Coalition of Homelessness v. County and City of San Francisco said in the lawsuit.

Those filing the lawsuit hope to get San Francisco to build enough housing for all the homeless in the city, which recent estimates put at a price tag of $4.8 billion.

“This is the accumulation of years of witnessing, documenting and responding to fundamentally abusive human rights violations that unhoused people have had to experience at the very worst time in their lives,” explained Coalition on Homelessness director Jennifer Friedenbach in a statement on Tuesday. “We hope to accomplish a dramatic shift from a city that responds to homelessness with sweeps, with confiscation of property, with criminalizing folks for being poor to a city that is instead addressing the issue at its core through the provision of housing.”

As of Wednesday the city has yet to formally respond due to not being served yet, but both the Mayor’s office and City Attorney’s office has said that they have expanded shelter and housing for the homeless, including over 3,000 permanent supportive housing units being made available since 2020, including a new Mission district housing center opened just last week.

“Once we are served with the lawsuit, we will review the complaint and respond in court,” said the office of City Attorney David Chiu on Wednesday.

Outside legal observers noted that the suit may have a hard chance of ultimately being successful.

“San Francisco is already busy getting more shelter space and creating more housing,” explained Jim  Sato, a legal analyst who focuses on homeless issues, to the Globe on Wednesday. “By the time the courts hear this, especially if it reaches Appeals, San Francisco will be in a different place and can point to other cities like Los Angeles, which has really tackled the homeless encampment issue in recent years, where tactics have been successful. That’s all the city needs to do. Build some more housing, show precedent, cite public safety, and this lawsuit fizzles out.”

More on the San Francisco suit is expected later this year.

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One thought on “Homeless Advocates Sue San Francisco To End Homeless Encampment Sweeps

  1. Pure power greedy politicians have created this quagmire of homelessness with open borders, soft on crime policies promoting wide-spread drug dealing, unaffordable housing, covid lock-down eliminating the desire to be employed. All this and more, next is to create abortions tourism where the California taxpayer foots the bills.

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