Petition update

Press Advisory: Lawsuit filed by Elder Law & Disability Rights Center over evictions

Orange County Poverty Alleviation Coalition

Jan 29, 2018 — PRESS ADVISORY:

LAWSUIT FILED AGAINST COUNTY AND SEVERAL CITIES FOR ACTIONS AGAINST HOMELESS INDIVIDUALS IN THE RIVERBED

A press conference will be held on January 29, 2018, announcing a lawsuit against the County of Orange and the cities of Anaheim, Costa Mesa, and Orange challenging their actions against the homeless community in the Santa Ana Riverbed. The lawsuit alleges that the actions by the defendants violate the constitutional rights of homeless individuals and are contrary to several recent decisions by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal, finding that the City of Los Angeles could not criminalize homeless individuals who were camping or sleeping on the sidewalk when there is a lack of shelter, and that homeless individuals have the right to keep their possessions on public property.

On January 22, 2018, Orange County began the process of closing the Santa Ana Riverbed to the public and evicting approximately 800 to 1,000 people living in the Riverbed. These people have been moved repeatedly along the riverbed and concentrated in an area near Anaheim and Orange by the County since a federal court regulated the County’s seizure of homeless people’s property in early 2017. The County has now stated that even that last area will be closed to the public. The lawsuit alleges that the cities of Anaheim, Orange, and Costa Mesa have blocked homeless people from staying in their cities.

Brooke Weitzman, co-founder of the Elder Law and Disability Rights Center, stated, “Vulnerable residents of Orange County have no alternative. They came to the Santa Ana Riverbed fleeing criminalization in the Cities and if they are forced out of the Riverbed with no alternative, they will be unlawfully detained, ticketed, and arrested for behaviors like using a sleeping bag or using luggage.”

Catherine Sweetser, attorney at Schonbrun Seplow Harris & Hoffman LLP, stated, “The County has demonstrated a pattern of using alleged maintenance projects to make public space less hospitable for homeless individuals without providing housing alternatives. It violates the Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution to punish someone for sleeping in public when they have nowhere else to sleep.”

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