(BCN) — The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will host a hearing Wednesday on whether to uphold a court order that bars the city of San Francisco from clearing tent encampments.
In December, a federal magistrate judge ruled that San Francisco city officials cannot enforce or threaten laws against involuntary homeless people sleeping, sitting or lying on city streets. The federal judge issued a preliminary injunction on the basis that San Francisco did not have enough shelter beds for the city’s unhoused population.
Enforcing these laws when people did not have ample access to shelter would violate the Eighth Amendment’s cruel and unusual punishment clause, she concluded. In response, San Francisco City Attorney David Chiu filed an appeal challenging the definition of what it means to be “involuntarily homeless.”
Before the hearing Wednesday, a coalition of businesses and community groups will join a slew of San Francisco officials to speak out against the court order in a rally. Mayor London Breed and Supervisors Rafael Mandelman, Matt Dorsey and Joel Engardio plan to speak on the advancement of the city’s resources for homelessness and substance abuse.
But those against the homeless encampment sweeps argue it is unfair to enforce sleeping laws against homeless people as the city continues to have an insufficient shelter bed supply.
In a letter to their supporters sent out Monday, the advocacy group Coalition on Homelessness, which brought the suit against the city, said that though many people are frustrated about the presence of unhoused people, massive sweeps are not the solution to the problem.
Permitting sweeps would only lead to illegal confiscation of people’s property, added obstacles to proper care and the criminalization of poverty, according to the group.
“We believe it is time for San Francisco to shift gears and stop holding onto failed strategies,” reads the letter from executive director Jennifer Friedenbach.
The organization alleges that it compiled significant evidence that city officials were breaking the law and blaming homeless people for a problem they caused.
“We have been trying to get the city to stop abusing people for years and start focusing on real solution to the city’s affordability crisis instead of blaming the impoverished San Francisco residents most impacted by skyrocketing rents,” added Friedenbach. “They refused.”
The organization is hoping for a win that could transform the city’s homelessness crisis response and add more beds and housing for homeless people.
Wednesday’s court hearing is planned for 9:30 a.m. at 95 Seventh St. and is being live-streamed at https://www.ca9.uscourts.gov/media/live-oral-arguments/watch/?id=12855468130678
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