Property Rights of the Homeless
This occurred a few years ago in Ann Arbor in a camp known as "Camp Take Notice". Slab City California is another example of a collision between homeless persons with little property and state actors.
In these encampment sweeps, personal property of the homeless is removed to aid the reclamation and gentrification process. More often than not, the sweeps -a form of state action- go too far, too fast.
Over the years, the encampment sweeps by local governments have led to a series of constitutional challenges courtesy of the American Civil Liberties Union and other legal aid lawyers. The U.S. Department of Justice has stated that anti-camping ordinances cannot criminalize persons for being homeless.
In one of the encampment lawsuits, a federal judge in Seattle ruled last Friday that the property of homeless persons was removed by Clark County officials without a determination as to whether the property was abandoned or "owned" by the homeless.
The property taken included broken furniture, backpacks, medication, clothing, various documents and photographs. A leather basketball can be seen in the above photo, taken in March beneath I-90 in Clark County, near Vancouver. When homeless, such implements can be vital to your survival.
In relevant part, the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution states that, "[n]o person shall be ...deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation." Although not valuable, the property of the homeless was taken in Clark County without notice or any compensation, let alone just compensation.
Trial is scheduled for early October to determine the value of the property taken by the state actors in Washington. Settlement discussions continue between the former campers, their legal aid attorneys, and Clark County.
Stay tuned as the case could have local impact wherever municipalities attempt to outlaw camping via local ordinance. We will keep you posted.