SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) – An emergency order is banning the City and County of San Francisco from sweeping homeless encampments and destroying people’s belongings.

“What we’re talking about here is treating people like human beings instead of like garbage,” Jennifer Friedendach of the Coalition on Homelessness said.

A judge is temporarily banning San Francisco police from removing tents and confiscating the belongings of homeless encampment dwellers.

Friedendach said this is “a long time coming.”

“The city has been illegally confiscating homeless people’s property and throwing it away instead of following their own policies,” Friedendach said. “They have been displacing people without offering shelter.”

The underlying lawsuit was filed in September by some unhoused people and the Coalition On Homelessness.

The suit alleged that the city violated the rights of those experiencing homelessness and the city’s own policies by penalizing people who have nowhere to go and taking their possessions.  

“The city was routinely destroying folks’ personal belongings things like medicine, prostetics, family photos and the like,” John Do, a senior attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union and co-counsel in the case, said. “It does not prevent the city from removing actual trash in terms of keeping streets cleans and ensuring that there are access to sidewalks.”

The coalition said the goal of the suit is to force the city to move its encampment sweeping resources to creating more affordable housing and other options to end homelessness.

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But District 8 (Castro-Noe Valley) Supervisor Rafael Mandelman was disappointed by the order.

“it’s an awful decision,” Mandelman said. “I couldn’t believe it. I think it was terrible. I think the city needs to appeal.”

Mandelman said he is also advocating for expanding shelter capacity, but that limiting the police’s ability to sweep encampments could result in disarray.

“I think people remember what happened in 2020 when San Francisco essentially stopped doing encampment resolutions for 6 months and the conditions on the streets became horrendous,” he said.

Mandelman said that the city attorney’s office is working to figure out all the details of the order, and what police and public works can still do.

The order will stay in place until there is a trial, which the ACLU hopes will happen within a year.

There will be a formal settlement discussion with the city in January.