Illegal camping has a devastating impact on the American River Parkway and a large part of that is the ineffective methods public leadership has chosen to use to respond to it, and this current surrender in a court case is an example, as reported by the Sacramento Bee.
“Hundreds of homeless men and women this week began filing reimbursement claims for tents, bicycles and other items seized by Sacramento police during raids of illegal encampments since 2005.
“In a highly unusual agreement reached between the city and homeless plaintiffs to resolve a class-action lawsuit, people who show that the city destroyed their belongings each will be paid either $400 or $750, depending upon the value of the property.
“Patrons of Loaves & Fishes, the city’s largest homeless services complex, are lining up to fill out claim forms, said Paula Lomazzi of the Sacramento Homeless Organizing Committee. “It’s pretty busy,” she said Thursday. “We’ve already gone through 400 to 500 forms.” Forms also are available at shelters and other places where homeless people gather.
“A thousand or more people may ultimately submit claims, which are due by June 8, said civil rights attorney Mark Merin, who brought the federal lawsuit on behalf of homeless clients.
“In addition to possibly hundreds of thousands of dollars in payments to homeless people, Merin said, the city also may be responsible for attorney fees for four years of work and a three-week trial. The figure, which would have to be approved by the court, “will amount to a rather high number,” he said.
“The city will make the payments to homeless plaintiffs “somewhat grudgingly,” Senior Deputy City Attorney Chance Trimm said Thursday. “We still don’t think we did anything wrong in terms of how we handled the property of the homeless,” he said. “But the alternative to resolve this was to go through hundreds of mini-trials, and that wouldn’t be a great thing for the court or anyone else. We had to find a way to get this thing to a final judgment.”
“The resolution came with the blessing of city leaders in closed discussions, he said.
“Sacramento County originally was part of the civil lawsuit, but settled its portion in 2009 with a payment of $488,000 and the development of elaborate policies for tagging and storing items seized during sweeps of illegal campsites.
“We don’t feel we engaged in the same type of conduct as the county. That’s why we took this to trial,” said Trimm. “We feel that our officers acted appropriately, in a very compassionate way.”
“About 300 people filed claims against the county, which paid out about $200,000 to plaintiffs. Trimm said he believes that fewer claims will be validated against city officers because they did a good job of marking and storing property seized at homeless campsites. In many cases, no one claimed the items, he said.”