Wednesday, 05 October 2016 00:00

Washington county must pay $250,000 for violating homeless people’s civil rights

Written by
Homelessness policies are changing just north of Portland, OR, where hunger strikers camped out to protest similar rules in 2012. Homelessness policies are changing just north of Portland, OR, where hunger strikers camped out to protest similar rules in 2012. CREDIT: AP Photos

County workers routinely destroyed and confiscated what little property homeless campers had.

Clean-up sweeps of homeless encampments destroy property, disrupt the marginal stability that informal communities bring, and do nothing to house those living outdoors. And now, in the Portland area, they are also costing taxpayers money.

Clark County, Washington, will pay a quarter-million dollars to settle a lawsuit brought by a half-dozen homeless individuals there over a series of sweeps conducted from 2012 to 2014 just north of the Oregon border.

Workers there routinely confiscated and destroyed a range of belongings during the sweeps, including camp stoves, legal documents, and family photographs. County law enforcement policy said that the work crews could only confiscate property without notice if a camp was abandoned. If it was active, residents were to be given an hour’s notice to pack their things.

But in practice, lawyers for the plaintiffs said, homeless people would routinely return to their tents from meals at local charities to find workers had purloined their stuff.

The new settlement includes $165,000 in attorneys’ fees and $85,000 in direct restitution for six people who brought the case. The county is also committing to give a full 48 hours notice before sweeps, and to offer to store property for people who get relocated — cosmetic concessions that are common in larger cities where sweeps still routinely violate homeless people’s civil rights and make it harder for people to regain their footing.

Such sweeps have grown popular with local governments around the country in recent years. They’ve also attracted negative attention in a number of communities. A public works employee in San Francisco faced official discipline after refusing to help rip down an unpermitted “tiny house” occupied by a homeless man.

Homelessness policy experts explicitly tell local officials that these policies are destructive. The U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness noted in 2015 that “the forced dispersal of people from encampment settings…accomplishes nothing toward the goal of linking people to permanent housing opportunities, and can make it more difficult to provide such lasting solutions to people who have been sleeping and living in the encampment.”

Last year, the Department of Housing and Urban Development lent teeth to that expert advice when it updated the formula for federal funding to homelessness programs to punish cities that use a range of move-along laws to criminalize the day-to-day realities of homelessness.

Combined with a growing body of research on the net-negative human and financial impacts of criminalization policies toward the homeless, and increased buy-in on the basic idea that giving people permanent supportive housing is the best way to reduce and end homelessness, the opposition to sweeps is helping to reshape the fight against homelessness. Seattle has formally recognized temporary camps, and Indianapolis has extended legal protections to them.

But the old criminalization mentality remains widespread. Sweeps are a particularly stubborn phenomenon, and they haven’t simply disappeared. For local leaders often motivated by short-term political convenience and short-sighted public frustration, they still represent a quick “fix” to gripes from citizens and media alike.

And the real estate community often has an economic interest in seeing homeless people shuffled from one tile of a city’s chess board to another, as has been the case in East Harlem since 2014. Pope Francis was visiting a church in that long-neglected corner of Manhattan that summer, prompting NYPD officers and city workers to aggressively relocate campers on a block many had made home in the name of security.

Heavy enforcement continued there long after the Pope was headed back to the Vatican, however. There’s a new luxury high-rise apartment block going up a block away. Indigent people in the area say developers are re-branding the area around the 125th Street Amtrak and commuter rail station as “Upper Grand Central Station” to help market the neighborhood to outsiders.

Homeless people have long congregated around the station. But they don’t fit the new image. Police have continued trying to push them out of the neighborhood, prompting homelessness charities and the New York Civil Liberties Union to mount a legal challenge earlier this year.

Link to original article from ThinkProgress

Read 4022 times
Andrea Miller

Andrea Miller, Co-Executive Director and IT Director, was the Democratic Nominee in 2008 for House of Representatives in the Virginia 4th District. Running on a Medicare for All and clean energy platform, Andrea was endorsed by PDA, California Nurses and The Sierra Club. Prior to running for office, Andrea was a part of Congressman Dennis Kucinich’s presidential campaign, first as Statewide Coordinator for Virginia and subsequently as Regional Coordinator. From 2006 until leading the VA Kucinich campaign Andrea was MoveOn.org’s Regional Coordinator for Central, Southwest and Hampton Roads areas of Virginia and West Virginia. Andrea is also the PDA Virginia co-chair as well as the Technical Director. Andrea co-hosts, organizes and programs PDA's Blog Talk Radio show. She is also the lead designer and production team leader for PDA's websites and printed materials. Andrea co-directs PDA's Capitol Hill letter drops and Hill meetings. Her problem-solving skills are essential to PDA's operations.

Latest News

  • Repealing the Jim Crow law that keeps 1.5 million Floridians from voting. +

    Repealing the Jim Crow law that keeps 1.5 million Floridians from voting. A seismic political battle that could send shockwaves all the way to the White House was launched last week in Read More
  • Nuclear Weapons: Who Pays, Who Profits? +

    Nuclear Weapons: Who Pays, Who Profits? In an interview with Reuters conducted a month after he took office, Donald Trump asserted that the U.S. had “fallen Read More
  • Sessions issues sweeping new criminal charging policy +

    Sessions issues sweeping new criminal charging policy Attorney General Jeff Sessions overturned the sweeping criminal charging policy of former attorney general Eric H. Holder Jr. and directed Read More
  • Bush’s Iraq Lies, Uncontested, Will Haunt Us Under Trump +

    Bush’s Iraq Lies, Uncontested, Will Haunt Us Under Trump The CODEPINK Tribunal taking place December 1 and 2, and live streamed by The Real News, is a historic collection of testimonies about the lies Read More
  • The System IS Rigged!—The Electoral College and the 2016 Election +

    The System IS Rigged!—The Electoral College and the 2016 Election Donald Trump was right: the system is rigged! But it is rigged for the Republicans, not the Democrats, for conservatives, Read More
  • 1

Jobs for All Videos



Featured Jobs for All News

  • The Era of Outsourcing is Over +

    The Era of Outsourcing is Over During the campaign, Donald Trump made a 100 percent commitment to prevent United Technologies from shipping 2,100 jobs from Indiana Read More
  • A Subsidized Jobs Program for the 21st Century +

    A Subsidized Jobs Program for the 21st Century Unlocking Labor-Market Opportunities for All Who Seek Work Read More
  • Federal mediator to help resolve West Coast port contract dispute +

    Federal mediator to help resolve West Coast port contract dispute West Coast dockworkers and their shipping line employers have agreed to federal mediation to help resolve a contract dispute that Read More
  • The Answer to the Unemployment Problem Is More Jobs +

    The Answer to the Unemployment Problem Is More Jobs Dean Baker, everyone’s favorite progressive economist (mine, too), has an interesting take on our unemployment problem. Give more paid vacations. Read More
  • Full employment: The recovery’s missing ingredient +

    Full employment: The recovery’s missing ingredient Federal Reserve Chairman Janet Yellen gave a speech a few weeks ago that was doubly unusual. Read More
  • Young people's voice needed in building an infrastructure of opportunity +

    Young people's voice needed in building an infrastructure of opportunity This week the Durham, North Carolina-based nonprofit MDC released its latest State of the South report highlighting how the American Read More
  • The Full Employment Act at 35: America's Unfinished Business +

    The Full Employment Act at 35: America's Unfinished Business For the first time since the start of the Great Recession, the unemployment rate is below 6 percent. America has Read More
  • The Need for Jobs and Economic Equality +

    The Need for Jobs and Economic Equality Wealth and resources are not infinite; they are finite! Therefore, if some have too much, many others are left with Read More
  • Conyers & Congressional Advocates Announce Creation of Full Employment Caucus +

    Conyers & Congressional Advocates Announce Creation of Full Employment Caucus Today, in response to the ongoing jobs crisis in America, Representatives John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.), Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.), Charles Rangel Read More
  • 1
  • 2