LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – Homeless advocates announced Thursday they have filed a federal lawsuit against the city of Los Angeles over what they claim is the unlawful seizure and destruction of property belonging to homeless people during sweeps.
The city of L.A. is being sued by seven homeless people and two organizations: Ktown for All and the Association for Responsible and Equitable Public Spending.
The lawsuit alleges that the city has unconstitutionally used its municipal code “to justify the ongoing practice of seizing and destroying homeless people’s critically important belongings—including tents, medications, important documents, and other items they need to survive on the streets,” according to a statement from the Legal Aid Foundation of L.A., which helped file the lawsuit.
At a news conference Thursday in Westlake announcing the lawsuit, one woman told reporters she had to continually purchase new supplies when her property is taken.
“I have to buy my own supplies, and I always have to start over because they come and they sweep and they take everything from me,” Janet Garcia said. “I can’t get out of the hole that I’m in because they keep putting me back at square one.”
The lawsuit comes after criticism of a major cleanup effort which took place in the downtown L.A. Civic Center area on July 1.
People living on the street near L.A. City Hall were notified in advance of the cleanup with flyers that were posted on light poles in the area. The flyers said the major cleaning would include sidewalks, alleys, parks, beach, parking lots and other public access areas.
The day after the cleanup, however, the homeless tents had returned. Outreach workers say the city uses the clean-ups as an opportunity to get people off the streets.