Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Homeless people also need a home for their stuff

Homeless people are often under the threat of having their personal belongings confiscated or thrown away by authorities who want to remove them from public spaces. Sometimes the belongings contain important things like medicine and identification. This violation of homeless people's rights led Kansas City officials to change their policy. The city now provides tagged bags for the homeless to store their belongings in.

From this Associated Press story that we found at NPR, Alan Greenblatt explains the new policy.

It's an unusual policy. Cities are more likely to confiscate and destroy the property of the homeless than to monitor and store it.

It's part of a strategy — which also includes strict enforcement of laws banning camping and panhandling — "that makes it a crime for people to live in public spaces," says Maria Foscarinis, executive director of the National Law Center on Homeless & Poverty.

"Communities have taken no care whatsoever of the personal property, and that sends a powerful message to the homeless that they should move on," says Mark Rosenbaum, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Los Angeles.

The ACLU and other groups have filed lawsuits against several cities that conduct property raids. They've met with some success, notably in Fresno, Calif., which in 2008 agreed to a $2.3 million settlement.

The park rangers in St. Louis appeared to be in violation of a 2005 settlement under which the city agreed not to destroy the personal property of any homeless person.

Clean Up Or Punishment?

"If you as a community cannot afford to properly house the individual and their possessions, you cannot act on that negligence by taking away a person's property," says Neil Donovan, executive director of the National Coalition for the Homeless. That group, along with others, took the city of St. Petersburg, Fla., to court over the issue.

But last week, federal Judge Steven Merryday dismissed most of the accusations the advocacy groups had made against the city.

1 comment:

kathy oz said...

Yeah you are right and I do agree with you. Even homeless people need a home for their stuff. Even they are a part of this community and have the right to safeguard their belongings.