San Luis Obispo’s homeless sue for their rights

September 27, 2021


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.


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Along with this “camping” in all open spaces comes the right to publicly urinate, defecate and leave human waste everywhere? The piles of trash and hazardous waste, used needles? Stolen bikes, grocery carts, scattered everywhere. I’m sorry , but these campers lost me when it became apparent that these are not “out of luck” citizens wanting a better life ( those folks are at Prado Road trying), but folks riddled with drugs, alcohol, all sorts of psychotic behavior who often refuse help. The destruction of the environment and creation of hazardous bio-wastes everywhere is NOT their right and I hope the Court says stop to this lunacy.

Adam Trask

Before 1980 and the election of Ronald Reagan, the nation’s top tax rate was 70%. California and other states had plenty of money to take care of the homeless. When I was a kid, there were no homeless, because the New Deal and Great Society of FDR and LBJ provided funding to get these individuals off the streets.

And, by the way, California had the best and most affordable education system in the nation at that time, both primary and secondary. I paid less than $300 for a full three quarters at Cal Poly when I attended college. Today, the top tax rate is 37% and the 55 most profitable U.S. corporations pay ZERO in taxes. It now costs several thousands of dollars to attend a state school. Luckily, 11 years of Democratic governance in California has improved things somewhat—today Cal ranks 38th in state spending on education, as opposed to the 48 ranking under Governor Arnold.

These are facts, look them up.

Ever since Citizens United (look that up, too) was decided by the Supreme Court this nation has become upside down, with the rich only getting richer, while the middle class slowly disintegrates and the lower classes are relegated to finding a place to pitch their tent next to the freeway.

And, yet, not one Republican will vote for Joe Biden’s “Build Back Better” platform which will raise taxes on the rich (the richest Americans have benefited over $1 trillion in the last two years alone, some due to the pandemic, but mostly due to the Republican tax cut of 2017) and provide families and working class Americans with things like childcare and affordable college.


You should run for mayor of SLO. Probably win. I think the seat is vacant.


The problem with the “tax the rich” plan is that supplemental taxes are introduced with very high thresholds to ensure the support for it, then these thresholds are continuously lowered until you are punching the middle class right in the face.


Here are some facts for you. Look them up if you don’t believe me.

1. School districts in CA spend more than 85% of their budgets on compensation.

2. CA ranks 38th among 50 states and the District of Columbia in 29 categories.

Businesses and residents alike are leaving the state in record number to get away from your kind of thinking. Before long YOU will be the heavily taxed rich, those looking for all the free goodies will be looking to YOU to give it to them. Have fun.


I and another veteran called Salud Carbajal office for help on a federal issue. His female representative said she would get back to us AND NEVER DID!!!!! What is their problem? We. are constituents who need help and get ignored after being told the woman would get back to us!


Sounds to me like a lawyer was looking for work.

Mitch C

For every right there is a responsibility. If the homeless fulfilled their responsibility for sanitation, neatness, etc. then there would be more sympathy for what they consider their rights.


By running the homeless out of the few out of the way places they camped, and taking their few personal items and harassing them, the city has damaged the downtown where angry mentally ill people now defecate on sidewalks and harass shoppers.

You can hardly walk around downtown anymore without being accosted. The damage to business owners is huge. And the non-profit buying RV’s to have them park in front of peoples’ homes for months on end is not improving the situation.

There has got to be a way to be humane and considerate of the homeless and also of the of non-homeless residents. I know a shop worker who has to be escorted in because a homeless man threatens to harm her every time she walks by.

The current plan has backfired. The city is declining fast.


An inconvenient question for the masses here… They mention the eighth and fourth amendments, but what about the second? Do the homeless have the right to keep and bear arms or does the mere fact that you do not have a home allow the government to completely violate your second amendment rights?

Mike Hunt

California Penal Code 25850 PC makes it a crime to carry a loaded firearm in a public place, on a public street, or in a motor vehicle. This offense is generally treated as a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in county jail.

Penal Code 26350 is the California statute that prohibits a person from openly carrying an exposed and unloaded handgun in a public place or in a vehicle. A violation is charged as a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in county jail.

They already have violated them.


So.. basically yes, California’s draconian gun laws are violating the second amendment rights of homeless. (Unless a tent or cardboard box counts as a domicile.) There is an often-cited mantra that an armed populace leads to a reduction in crime, and we all know homeless encampments have their fair share of crime, so it would seem that passing out guns to homeless people would be a logical step to reduce crime, right?


If the homeless win their lawsuit, can Dan DeVaul make the same claim!!!


Heck, I’m gonna pitch a tent on one of my favorite public beaches and my 5th wheel in front of Babak’s house.

Jorge Estrada

If the homeless are not required to comply with health and safety standards, then I’m buying vacant lots and renting spaces as an option to their use of fee free public spaces. Why should government controlled public spaces be allowed to have no compliance and no taxes assessed for private use? At least I will have a latex glove dispenser and a bio-waste container to improve hygiene over what is afforded at the fee free public spaces. I’m beginning to understand why advanced cultures do not wear their shoes indoors, we too are advancing.