Sacramento homeless advocates declare victory as court ruling prohibits homeless sweeps during pandemic

Local News

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) — Homeless advocates in Sacramento said a court ruling prohibiting homeless sweeps during the pandemic is a significant victory for those who have no shelter. But city officials said they still have concerns.

“You must stop breaking up these encampments. You must stop sweeping homeless people off the streets,” said California Homeless Union attorney Anthony Prince.

Homeless advocates said the court order to follow a county health mandate was cut and dry: Homeless camps cannot be broken up on public property unless officials have somewhere to house the homeless individuals.

The public health order issued in June cited the danger of moving homeless people infected with COVID-19 all over the city.

“This will not stop being spread if we don’ take these precautions and get serious about it,” said Sacramento Homeless Union President Crystal Sanchez.

While homeless advocates are declaring a victory against what they call efforts to continue to harass the homeless during a health crisis, the city took a different view.

The ruling allows police to continue clearing campers from Sacramento City Hall in the evenings because vital business is conducted there. It also does not stop sweeps of homeless camps from public property for safety reasons, including the danger of campfires.

The city sent FOX40 the following statement on the ruling:

We are pleased the court affirmed the City’s ability to protect critical infrastructure — including City Hall — and balance its operational needs with the needs of people experiencing homelessness. The court also ruled that the City, in two instances, cleared encampments on public property without providing two individuals real-time access to housing and transportation. While the City disagrees with that determination, it will abide by the court’s directive and continue to follow the County’s public-health order, which is consistent with current City policy. Helping people experiencing homelessness remains a top priority for the City, and we appreciate the court’s acknowledgement of all the actions the City has taken thus far to assist our unsheltered residents.

City of Sacramento

The ruling also says homeless advocates failed to make a case that the city is required to house the homeless or provide special health care for those without housing who have COVID-19. It says they also did not show that there was a high COVID-19 rate among the homeless or that their constitutional rights were being violated.

Still, the ban on homeless sweeps was significant.

“We didn’t really expect to get it all but we got the main thing we were trying to get,” Prince told FOX40.

The city said homeless people were offered housing before they were moved out but they declined. The court said the city could not document those offers.

“The track record of the city is that we don’t trust them,” Prince said.

A city spokesperson said officials will follow the court ruling, although they disagree with some of its findings. He said city officials have always offered housing alternatives before sweeps but critics said the offers were more like putting them on waiting lists for housing that does not exist.

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