Economics/Class Relations

Federal Court Rules Homeless People Have Property Rights

By Robert Davis, Invisible People

A federal court declared that people experiencing homelessness have a right to personal property, including bulky items like mattresses and carts.

In a 2-1 decision, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld an injunction preventing The City of Los Angeles from discarding large, unabandoned items. The Court agreed with a lower court’s reasoning that the city’s ordinance, which allows its agent to remove bulky items without notice, likely violates 4th Amendment protections against unreasonable seizures.

The ruling impacts all cities within the Ninth Circuit’s jurisdiction. This includes the entire west coast, as well as Idaho, New Mexico, Nevada, Wyoming, Alaska, and Hawaii.

Writing for the majority, Judge Michelle Friedland said:

“City employees have discarded a crate that a person used to secure his pet dog at night; carts that a person used to transport his possessions; wooden pallets and a cushion on which a person slept; and bins that a person used to keep her clothing dry—sometimes in the presence of their respective owners.”

At the same time, these actions are occurring as “the escalating homelessness crisis in the City of Los Angeles has forced an unprecedented number of residents to live, sleep, and store their belongings exclusively in public places,” the opinion reads.


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