Federal judge says San Francisco can’t clear homeless camps

Dec 23, 2022, 7:57 PM | Updated: Dec 24, 2022, 10:06 am
FILE - Supporters hold signs at a news conference held by the Coalition on Homelessness at the fron...

FILE - Supporters hold signs at a news conference held by the Coalition on Homelessness at the front steps of Oakland's federal courthouse in Oakland, Calif., on Thursday, Dec. 22, 2022. On Friday, Dec. 23, 2022, a federal judge temporarily banned San Francisco from clearing homeless encampments, saying the city violated its own policies. (Salgu Wissmath/San Francisco Chronicle via AP, File)

(Salgu Wissmath/San Francisco Chronicle via AP, File)

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A federal judge has temporarily banned San Francisco from clearing homeless encampments, saying the city violated its own policies by failing to offer other shelter.

Magistrate Judge Donna M. Ryu in U.S. District Court in Oakland granted an emergency order Friday night that bars the city from taking away tents and confiscating the belongings of encampment dwellers, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

The move came in a lawsuit filed on behalf of homeless plaintiffs that sought to stop San Francisco from dismantling homeless encampments until it has thousands of additional shelter beds.

Ryu cited evidence presented by the plaintiffs that the city regularly and illegally failed to offer shelter to inhabitants before clearing the encampments and improperly seized or threw out their belongings, including cellphones, medication, identification and even prosthetic limbs.

The city’s arguments in its defense were “wholly unconvincing,” the judge said.

In a statement, Mayor London Breed decried the emergency order.

“Mayors cannot run cities this way,” she said. “We already have too few tools to deal with the mental illness we see on our streets. Now we are being told not to use another tool that helps bring people indoors and keeps our neighborhoods safe and clean for our residents.”

Breed said many people encountered during the cleanups “are refusing services or are already housed” and some use the encampments for “drug dealing, human trafficking and other illegal activities.”

City attorneys have said its policies balance the rights of homeless people with a need to maintain clean and safe public spaces. In court documents, they said homeless people get plenty of notice of upcoming cleanings, receive offers of help and shelter and are asked to leave an encampment only after declining an offer to stay elsewhere.

But the judge pointed to evidence provided by the Coalition on Homelessness and seven plaintiffs, containing academic analysis and detailed eyewitness accounts of numerous sweeps in the past three years that show homeless people were deprived of personal items and pushed out with nowhere to go.

“The policy isn’t the problem,” Ryu said in a virtual hearing Thursday. “The question is how is that policy being executed.”

There are an estimated 7,800 homeless people in San Francisco and the city has acknowledged that it is short thousands of available temporary or permanent beds.

There were 34 beds available as of Friday, said Zal K. Shroff, senior attorney with the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area, one of several legal organizations representing the coalition.

The lawsuit is among several pending in Western states where visible homelessness has grown amid a shortage of shelter beds and affordable housing.

Last week, a federal judge issued an emergency injunction to stop the city of Phoenix from conducting sweeps of a large homeless encampment downtown, in response to a lawsuit filed by the ACLU of Arizona. Authorities cannot enforce camping bans on anyone unable to obtain a shelter bed and can only seize property that is illegal or a threat.

The ACLU of New Mexico and others sued the city of Albuquerque this week, alleging officials are destroying encampments and criminalizing people for being homeless.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

FILE - Signage outside PayPal headquarters in San Jose, Calif., is pictured on March 10, 2015. PayP...
Associated Press

PayPal to cut 2,000 jobs in latest tech company cost-cutting

PayPal said Tuesday it will trim about 7% of its total workforce, or about 2,000 full-time workers
11 hours ago
FILE - Michael Cohen, former President Donald Trump's longtime personal lawyer, arrives at Federal ...
Associated Press

Cohen says DA took phones for renewed Trump hush-money probe

NEW YORK (AP) — Donald Trump’s long-estranged former lawyer and fixer, Michael Cohen, says Manhattan prosecutors recently took his cellphones to preserve evidence related to a hush-money payment he made to porn actress Stormy Daniels in the waning weeks of the 2016 presidential campaign. The payment to Daniels, which Cohen says was intended to buy […]
1 day ago
FILE - Nathan Chasing Horse attends the South Dakota premiere of the HBO film "Bury My Heart at Wou...
Associated Press

‘Dances With Wolves’ actor to be charged with sex assault

LAS VEGAS (AP) — A former “Dances With Wolves” actor accused of leading a cult could be facing multiple felonies and life in prison after police said he sexually assaulted young Indigenous girls and took multiple wives during a period spanning two decades, court records show. As of Wednesday, Nathan Lee Chasing His Horse, who […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

Ex-ABC journalist charged with child pornography offense

A well-known former investigative journalist for ABC News has been arrested on a charge of “transporting” images depicting the sexual abuse of children, the Department of Justice said on Wednesday. James Gordon Meek, 53, of Arlington, Virginia, was arrested Tuesday, months after his home was searched by federal authorities. Authorities found images of children engaged […]
1 day ago
This is a locator map for Afghanistan with its capital, Kabul. (AP Photo)...
Associated Press

Taliban asks Pakistan not to blame them for violence at home

ISLAMABAD (AP) — Afghanistan’s Taliban-appointed foreign minister Wednesday asked Pakistani authorities to look for the reasons behind militant violence in their country instead of blaming Afghanistan. The comments from Amir Khan Muttaqi came two days after Pakistani officials said the attackers who orchestrated Monday’s suicide bombing that killed 101 people in northwest Pakistan staged the […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

Qatar Airways, Airbus reach settlement in A350 legal case

LONDON (AP) — Qatar Airways and Airbus have reached a settlement in a longstanding legal dispute over the safety of the A350 jetliner and billions of orders for other planes. The companies said in a joint statement Wednesday that the settlement was “amicable and mutually agreeable.” “A repair project is now underway and both parties […]
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

safety from crime...

As crime increases, our safety measures must too

It's easy to be accused of fearmongering regarding crime, but Seattle residents might have good reason to be concerned for their safety.
Comcast Ready for Business Fund...
Ilona Lohrey | President and CEO, GSBA

GSBA is closing the disparity gap with Ready for Business Fund

GSBA, Comcast, and other partners are working to address disparities in access to financial resources with the Ready for Business fund.
SHIBA WA...

Medicare open enrollment is here and SHIBA can help!

The SHIBA program – part of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner – is ready to help with your Medicare open enrollment decisions.
Lake Washington Windows...

Choosing Best Windows for Your Home

Lake Washington Windows and Doors is a local window dealer offering the exclusive Leak Armor installation.
Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
Federal judge says San Francisco can’t clear homeless camps