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January 18, 2024

The preliminary injunction bars the city from removing unhoused people from public locations and destroying their property.

SAN BERNARDINO – On Friday, a U.S. District Court judge granted a preliminary injunction in Tyson v. San Bernardino, barring the City of San Bernardino from removing and displacing unhoused people and their belongings in the city. The court found that San Bernardino’s practices of destroying unhoused people’s personal property and failing to accommodate their disability needs likely violated their constitutional rights and their rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

“Living outside is hard, and even harder when you have disabilities,” said Lenka John, a plaintiff in the case who was pushed out of Meadowbrook Park last year with many of her personal belongings destroyed, including essential records. “The city of San Bernardino should be helping us—not hurting us.” 

The lawsuit, filed in August 2023 by three unhoused people with disabilities and a grassroots mutual aid organization, represented by the ACLU Foundation of Southern California, O’Melveny & Myers LLP, and Elder Law and Disability Rights Center, challenged San Bernardino’s widespread practice of unlawfully forcing unhoused people with disabilities to move themselves and their property from locations like Perris Hill Park, Meadowbrook Park, and Seccombe Lake Recreation Area, with reckless disregard for people’s disability needs for assistance. During these displacements, the city destroyed personal property, including essential items, medications, and mobility aids. 

“People do not lose their constitutional rights just because they are unhoused,” said Kath Rogers, staff attorney at the ACLU SoCal. “This court ruling will ensure that unhoused members of our community will not have their property illegally confiscated and destroyed.”

With nowhere to go and no relocation assistance, people in walkers and wheelchairs were forced to move themselves and what little belongings they could carry – which was difficult or impossible due to their mobility impairments or other disabilities. People using walkers and wheelchairs have ended up in remote and inaccessible washes or ravines next to the park, where they are unable to properly use their mobility aids.

“People with disabilities are particularly vulnerable during these sweeps,” said Brooke Weitzman, executive director of Elder Law and Disability Rights Center. “Our clients are relieved that they can safely protect themselves from the winter weather while they wait for the city to take real evidence-based steps toward ending the housing crisis and compliance with federal protections for people with disabilities.” 

Court order: