Class action lawsuit claims San Diego officials who cleared out encampments violated constitutional rights of the homeless

San Diego officials are accused in a federal class action lawsuit of violating the constitutional rights of homeless people when they cleared out encampments and threw away their possessions.

‘They just keep wanting to keep kicking people while they’re down … It is crushing.’

The lawsuit says that encampment sweeps violate due process rights of the homeless as well as equal protection rights.

Officials ordered that encampments be cleared out in East County, but homeless people say they were not given enough notice to protect their possessions. Among the property cited in the lawsuit was a woman’s walker and the cremated ashes of her son and husband. In another instance, a woman claimed that workers trashed birth certificates, photographs, jewelry, and her daughter’s first tooth.

Others said that police officers performing the sweeps sometimes sorted through the possessions in order to steal valuable items.

“Defendants’ actions are making the homelessness crisis worse,” claimed the lawsuit, which added that officials’ “constant and relentless threats of criminal punishment upon Citizens for being poor and unhoused are a cruel and ineffective approach that betrays a deep, willful misunderstanding of the problem.”

Homeless advocate Michael McConnell applauded the lawsuit.

“They just keep wanting to keep kicking people while they’re down,” McConnell told KFMB-TV. “It is crushing, and I’ve seen everything. I’ve seen them throw away people’s wheelchairs and walkers and bicycles and IDs and medications.”

The lawsuit says that homeless people are ordered to remove their property, but they’re not given any other options.

“I don’t think in any part of the region is there enough shelter for folks to get off the streets and have a safe place to store their belongings, so it’s not like there’s options for people, and there certainly isn’t enough affordable housing for people,” McConnell explained.

‘Unfortunately, it just does absolutely nothing to help solve this issue.’

The officials named as defendants in the lawsuit did not offer any comment about the matter. The litigation asks for the possessions to be returned and for unspecified compensation.

The lawsuit may be settled by the U.S. Supreme Court, which is scheduled to decide a similar case later this year.

“Unfortunately, it just does absolutely nothing to help solve this issue, and it just puts people in more dire straits trying to get out of it,” McConnell said.

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