Last year’s U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals decision in favor of six homeless persons challenging Los Angeles’ sil-lie law may have a bigger impact on quality of life laws targeting homeless people than first thought.
Six people experiencing homelessness, represented by the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California challenged the city's practice of arresting persons for violating a municipal ordinance, which says that "no person shall sit, lie or sleep in or upon any street, sidewalk or public way."
The court ruled it was illegal to prohibit people from sleeping on sidewalks because the city did not have enough shelter space. The case is under appeal, and LA police continue to enforce the law in a town that has an estimated 90,000 people living on the streets.
The City of San Diego recently announced that people experiencing homelessness will be allowed to sleep on public property between the times of 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. Officials in San Diego say the city was more or less forced into a settlement when a federal court ruled that a ordinance prohibiting sleeping on the sidewalk was illegal because the city didn't have enough shelter beds.
Is it possible to repeal Portland’s anti-camping ordinance using the 9th District’s ruling on sit/lie? According to Adam Arms with McKanna/Bishop/Joffee & Sullivan, “The 9th circuit embodies the idea that you can not criminalize basic human life sustaining activities. As a human being without a home you have to sleep somewhere. The LA ruling could be used to shed light on the camping ordinance and the ways its enforced to criminalize life sustaining activities.” Arms should know, he spent years defending the homeless with the San Francisco Coalition for the Homeless, and was the attorney who represented peace activists in Portland back in 2003 when the sit-lie was found unconstitutional. Since then, sit-lie has been in turmoil.
The new sit-lie ordinance that has been proposed by a committee would ban people from sitting or lying on a sidewalk in downtown and in the Lloyd Center district during the daytime. In exchange for the law targeting homeless people the city has agreed to create a day access center, public restrooms and park benches downtown. Problem is there’s no access center for people and city council agreed to not move forward with the law until all of immunities are in place. In the meantime, the business community is getting impatient and street kids are organizing a group of homeless people calling bullshit.
Street Roots tends to agree with the street kids and thinks the city should take it all off the table and start anew. This time with a law that doesn’t ban people from existing or at least that allows people to sleep undisturbed downtown on public property, including parks. Who knows, maybe the LA ruling can force the city to allow people to sleep downtown - because it certainly doesn’t seem to be concerned that people’s human rights are being violated.
The current SRs looks at the organizing activities and protests by homeless youth on the streets this week. The issue also has great columns by Marvin Mitchell, Jay Thiemeyer and Alejandro Queral with the Northwest Constitutional Rights Center on the Racial Profiling committee - and much, much more...
* Don't forget about the Street Roots April 5, benefit with Artis the Spoonman & Jim Page at the Clinton Street Theater. Tickets available at Street Roots for $15 at 503-228-5657 or purchase tickets at the Clinton Street Box Office on SE 26th & Clinton.