Status: 09/28/2022 at 12:15 PM
Rents in and around San Francisco have been rising rapidly over the years – and with them the number of homeless people. Many of them are repeatedly discovered and expelled. Lawyers and activists are now suing the city’s policies.
A group of lawyers and activists has filed a lawsuit against the city of San Francisco for violating the constitutional rights of the homeless population. The civil rights group Coalition on Homelessness, along with attorneys from the ACLU of Northern California and the Committee of Lawyers for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area, prepared the lawsuit on behalf of seven homeless people.
“We have accumulated an enormous amount of evidence over three years that the city violates the rights of the homeless,” said Jennifer Friedenbach of the Coalition on Homelessness. “We expect a dramatic change from a city that responds with homelessness searches, property seizures and criminalization of poor people to a city that addresses the problem by providing housing.”
“brutal and hostile”
The 105-page lawsuit argues that the city is breaking both federal and local laws. The Northern California metropolis conveys an “image of a caring community” with a plan against homelessness. But decades of inaction on housing policy have forced thousands to take shelter in tents and vehicles.
San Francisco’s previous efforts to accommodate the homeless have long been controversial, ineffective, and costly. Although investments are already being made in affordable housing, many people are becoming homeless every night.
“Over and over again, the city has not followed its own guidelines,” said Zal Shroff, a co-author of the trial and one of the lead lawyers on the case. The guidelines sound good on paper, but in practice they have proven to be “brutal and counterproductive.”
debate about reasons
The lawsuit states that the city also uses harsh methods to evict the homeless. They were threatened with arrest and some were taken into custody. When camps are evicted early in the morning, they are not offered accommodation, even if required by law. Shroff said that these illegal practices should be stopped. The reasons for homelessness should be debated.
According to an annual survey, there are currently 7,754 people living on the streets of San Francisco. Thousands of people have lost their homes in recent years due to the ever-increasing rents in the area. Lawyers calculate that 6,700 new affordable housing units will have to be built to accommodate the person who is currently homeless. He estimates it to cost US$4.8 billion – about five billion euros.
3000 apartments by 2020
San Francisco Mayor London Breed and District Attorney David Chiu declined to comment on the lawsuit. However, their offices reported that the city was already expanding temporary housing. In addition, more permanent housing options will be created – around 3000 apartments including one offering care for the homeless from 2020.
Emily Cohen, deputy director of the city’s Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing, said San Francisco has “a service-oriented approach to addressing vulnerable homelessness” and is looking to expand “temporary housing and permanent housing to street dwellers.” is focused on providing a viable alternative place to serve people that is safe, respectful and welcoming”.
Although the trial can take years, lawyers are hoping that an emergency hearing will take place in the next five to six weeks. Parts of searches and evictions may be withheld for the duration of the litigation as a result of the hearing.
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