San Luis Obispo’s homeless sue for their rights

September 27, 2021

By KAREN VELIE

A group of homeless individuals in San Luis Obispo is asking the court to help them secure the right to sleep in tents and vehicles without facing destruction of their property, harassment, fines and criminal charges, according to a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court on Sept. 17.

The plaintiffs are seeking the right to camp in open spaces, to sleep in their cars, and to avoid being disproportionately fined for sleeping or resting in public. The San Luis Obispo City Council has passed multiple ordinances barring overnight access to parks and public spaces.

Even though San Luis Obispo has a policy of not destroying personal property seized during raids of homeless encampments for at least 60 days, the lawsuit alleges the city has repeatedly discarded items such as tents, cooking utensils and sleeping bags.

The lawsuit accuses the city of violating the Eighth Amendment by punishing people for being homeless, and the Fourth Amendment for seizing and destroying personal property, as well as the California Constitution’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment.

“Collectively, the city’s enforcement of a web of ordinances all but ensures that unsheltered persons are forced out of every zone or category of land within the city,” according to the lawsuit. “There is simply no place left for the individual plaintiffs to exist without hiding and without the fear and/or imposition of excessive fines.”

Prado Homeless Services Center, a shelter backed by city funds, was intended to lower the number of people living without shelter in the city. But with its rigid scheduling, expulsion of clients who fail to do chores or arrive on time, and lack of space, it did not reach its goal.

The last official count, which took place in 2019, found 482 homeless people living in San Luis Obispo. Of those, 326 were living in tents, cars or outdoors.

California Rural Legal Assistance and San Luis Obispo based attorney Babak Naficy filed the lawsuit on behalf of five homeless individuals and the nonprofit Hope’s Village of SLO. The suit asks the court to bar the city from punishing or fining homeless people for camping, sleeping or traveling; imposing excessive fines; seizing and disposing of property; for legal costs and attorney fees and for any other relief deemed appropriate.

Almost 10 years ago, the city lost a similar lawsuit related to homeless individuals sleeping in their vehicles on city streets.

In 2012, attorneys Saro Rizzo and Stew Jenkins filed a lawsuit accusing San Luis Obispo and its chief of police of discrimination, harassment and the criminalization of homeless people. After a judge determined that the city’s treatment of the homeless was unconstitutional, the city agreed to dismiss all tickets given to homeless residents for sleeping in their vehicles.

The court also ordered the city to pay Rizzo and Jenkins $133,880 for costs and legal fees.


Loading...

25
Leave a Reply

Please Login to comment
OnlyinSLO

I can only imagine what idiot counseled the City on their current practices towards the homeless. Last time, that idiot berated the local judge in the paper for his decision. Then she tried to get Stew Jenkins to give his judgement to Adam Hill’s wife’s charity (Now that is funny in hind sight for multiple reasons). Last time, Stew Jenkins warned the City Council and City Attorney to stop their conduct and gave them the detailed reasons why. Two months later he filed suit against the City for continuing to violate homeless peoples constitutional and property rights. So, fast forward the same idiot is providing expert legal advice to City Management and Council and we are again being sued because as a practicing attorney she is learning her trade at our expense. When will City leaders pull their heads out and fire this idiot who gives piss poor legal counsel that cost the City millions.


isoslo

I know that some of the homeless are in need and deserve some help, but many do not. Many have chosen a life free of confining rules, many have chosen a life of not working, many have chosen a life of drug usage, and many have chosen to live the aforementioned life on the central coast where the weather is great. For these people I have no sympathy and do not chose to use my tax payments to offer assistance. But for the truly local needy by no fault of their own I would like to help. Therefore we, as a community, have hired city and county employees, who are well paid to deal with this problem. If these employees cannot deal with the problem we should get new employees who can do the job.


IDBOUND

The vast majority that are homeless I would say have some sort of mental illness , being homeless can exacerbate behavioral problems …at the root of the mental illness drug and alcohol use in my opinion made the transition to being homeless part of a dead end spiraling demise .The 5 prisons that the governor has/is shut/shutting down could be used as mental health facilities as a start on helping out the roughly 162k homeless people in California even though they could only house about 12k to 15k homeless at one time .It would keep the economy fluid in the areas where these prisons are located .As a side note a month ago a wildfire was burning on land attached to one of the northern California fire camps that the governor shut down prior …no fire camp inmates near the wildfire to help extinguish it


PatriciaMc

They have shelters, i.e. Prado road -brand new, they can go to IF they do not test positive for drugs! These are Drug Addicts -NOT HOMELESS. They don’t have homes because they are DRUG ADDICTS who nobody wants to live with because they are destructive and abusive. If they wanted to be productive, responsible members of society, they would go to Prado, get cleaned up, get a job and WORK like the rest of us. I’m sorry but law-breaking, drug-addicted vagrants don’t have such rights. They can go to rehab, get a job, pay rent/mortgage and taxes LIKE THE REST OF US. NO, they cannot pollute and ruin our openspaces as well as our quality of life, WE PAY FOR, ….and do so on our dime! You don’t negotiate with drug addicts.


kayaknut

Let me set up camp on every mayor, councilmember, government administration persons front yard.


Rambunctious

Listen…we can’t continue to allow people to live in the bushes along side of the Highway…you can smell human waste when riding or walking by…there is trash everywhere…you can smell it from McDonalds in Morro Bay…..its just not a workable condition…we have shelters and food banks and job training programs…if the homeless won’t use those assets they should be arrested for vagrancy and forced to clean themselves up in jail where they can get treatment…maybe that will turn them around….leaving them in the streets is not compassion….


indabarrel

How bout that community center in Los Osos. You know, right next to the skate park and kids play area. You know the center for the community….oh excuse me “the homeless camping area”. How many stories does my teenage daughter have of harassment by these community members and when you call the Sheriff……. Can you hear the crickets…. Not one thing you can do about it? Really?


copperhead

My head just exploded.


derasmus

At the heart of this issue is MENTAL ILLNESS. Not affordable housing, not places to camp, etc. Mental illness is an epidemic in this country (and around the world) and is at the root of so much that plagues humanity. Instead of focusing on climate change a better use of our time, energy and resources should be directed at a integrated and encompassing program to address and manage this sickness.


Just my opinion.


copperhead

I thought it was Meth.