On 18 October the ACLU (presumably the California Branch) filed suit against the City of Fresno, claiming that it was violating the rights of homeless people by bulldozing their tent towns and destroying their personal property.
The lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court seeks an order to stop officials from uprooting the homeless encampments in downtown Fresno. According to an ACLU lawyer, “Some of the people rousted in the raids lost clothing, medication, tents and irreplaceable items such as family photographs, personal records and documents.”
City officials, on the other hand, said the tent cities set up by the homeless are safety hazards, a nuisance and hotbeds of crime. A spokeswoman for the City said, “The sweeps are done when neighbors start to complain about the smell, the tons of garbage that accumulates, and the drug use and prostitution that goes on.”
She added, “We have to be fair to the people that live in the area.”
There was no allegation in the complaint that Fresno, and local charities, had inadequate facilities to take care of the homeless. The case was based on the idea that the homeless have a “right” to live wherever they want to, including without bathroom facilities and garbage collection. It is easy to imagine how ripe that situation can become, and why the neighbors are objecting.
It is hard to imagine that any court will rule that there is a constitutional right to live on the streets in such conditions, just from the safety standpoint alone. It is also hard not to imagine that the ACLU lawyers are keeping close track of their hours, so they can try to extort (excuse me, negotiate) some kind of settlement that will include payments to the ACLU.