Thursday, November 23, 2006

Fresno Ruling Will Impact Illegal Camping on Parkway

Protecting an individual’s property is a bedrock of American law, but just as in drug sales profit property seizures and eminent domain property seizures, both for a greater public good, the seizure of the property of the homeless illegally camping in public space, will eventually be supported by legal opinion, but in the meantime localities will have to deal with this ruling and it will mean more illegal camping on the Parkway, and less enforcement.

Fresno ordered to stop destroying homeless people's property
By OLIVIA MUNOZ, - Associated Press WriterPublished 12:34 am PST Thursday, November 23, 2006

The city must stop seizing and destroying homeless people's property without warning while a civil rights lawsuit winds its way through court, a federal judge ruled.

U.S. District Court Judge Oliver W. Wanger granted a preliminary injunction Wednesday, saying the city's policy regarding homeless people's property is "dishonest and demeaning" to them.

"Persons cannot be punished because of their status," Wanger said, before issuing his ruling.
"They cannot be denied their constitutional rights because of their appearance, because they are impoverished, because they are squatters, because they are, in effect, voiceless."

The suit - filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights on behalf of six people - claims police and sanitation workers violated the rights of the city's homeless over the last three years by defining their property as trash and bulldozing their encampments.

Homeless advocates said Wednesday's ruling would help cement homeless people's property rights.

"This is very significant in protecting not just the rights of homeless people in Fresno, but nationally," said Maria Foscarinis, executive director of the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty. "It's the court saying, 'Yes, there are legal rights, constitutional rights that are at issue here and this case needs to go forward.'"

James Betts, an attorney for the city, argued that forcing Fresno to log and store belongings seized in the "cleanups" would be a burden because the city doesn't have the space, money or the manpower to handle the volume of items.

Estimates of the number of people living on Fresno's streets range from about 500 to just under 8,900. Wanger's order blocks the city from raiding their tent towns and destroying their belongings until the case goes to trial, or reaches a settlement.