Attorneys for homeless residents of Seattle pushed for a stop to sweeps in federal district court Sept. 7, arguing that the city’s practice of encampment cleanups violated homeless peoples’ constitutional rights.
Attorneys for the plaintiffs, which include Real Change, argued that sweeps deprive people of their belongings without notice, leaving them without identification, important documents and life-saving medications.
Though city policies require the storage and return of belongings, it is up to workers to make the distinction between what should be stored and what shouldn’t. The rules are so vague that the city could “drive a truck through these loopholes,” said attorney Todd Williams.
Fewer than 15 people in two years retrieved their property, said Breanne Schuster, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington.
Matthew Segal, an attorney for the city, countered that some unauthorized encampments create health and safety hazards that endanger the lives of the people living there and other residents of Seattle. Attorneys for the Washington State Department of Transportation advanced similar arguments.
Judge Ricardo Martinez noted from the bench that he was sympathetic to the plaintiffs, although he would not grant an injunction stopping the allegedly unconstitutional actions until he returned from Washington D.C.
Ashley Archibald is a Staff Reporter covering local government, policy and equity. Have a story idea? She can be can reached at ashleya (at) realchangenews (dot) org. Twitter @AshleyA_RC
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