LOS ANGELES ' At a news conference held in front of the LAPD's Central Area location in the heart of skid row, the ACLU of Southern California together with Las Familias Del Pueblo, a longtime Los Angeles based advocacy group, and the Catholic Workers announced the filing of a class action lawsuit challenging the City's enforcement of a Los Angeles' ordinance that bars sleeping, sitting or lying on public sidewalks against homeless people who have no where else to go.
'The city would rather spend money to jail the homeless than give them shelter and services,' said ACLU/SC cooperating attorney, Carol Sobel. 'There is no way to avoid violating this law if you are homeless, including the mentally ill. It doesn't make sense to arrest people for sleeping on the street when they have no other option.'
It is estimated that there are 85,000 homeless in the Los Angeles area and less than 4,000 emergency shelter beds in the entire county.
'Police must stop criminalizing the homeless for engaging in life-sustaining acts, like sleeping and eating, that they must do in public because they have no home to go home to,' said Alice Callaghan with Las Familias Del Pueblo. 'In the city of Los Angeles it seems that the policy is to not provide services for the homeless but rather massive police enforcement.'
The U.S. Conference of Mayors Report of 2002 states that Los Angeles was reportedly spent only $500,000 of locally generated funds to support homeless services, a paltry amount compared to other major cities. Boston, was reported to have spent $4,600,000 in locally generated funds; Chicago spent $6,417,944; Philadelphia spent $14,304,628; Seattle, $7,629,923; and Washington, D.C. spent $13,500,000.
'The City has a crisis on its hands, one that it has failed to address for far too long,' said Dan Tokaji, ACLU/SC staff attorney. 'The City of Los Angeles cannot sweep this problem under the rug by sweeping homeless people off the street as if they were garbage. They are not garbage; they are human beings and they are our fellow citizens '
The legal complain filed today states that the city has: 'initiated a concerted campaign of arrests of the homeless for sleeping or sitting on the sidewalk when there is no other place to go, indiscriminate searches and seizures in the guise of arresting parole and probation violators who the police claim prey on the homeless, and the orchestrated destruction of personal property of people who have little and, once the City finishes with them, have nothing.'