We are happy to inform you of some good news.
On April 23, 2019 the residents of the encampment in Union Point Park in Oakland, California were granted a preliminary injunction requiring the City of Oakland to desist from destroying the property of residents. The case is Van Hung v. Schaaf, Case No. 19-cv-01436-CRB. Further, the City of Oakland agreed that they would not arrest unhoused residents while cleaning and clearing the park. (see: https://www.leagle.com/decision/infdco20190424931)
The requirements that the City of Oakland must respect the rights of these residents may present a practical barrier to future sweeps. Can the City of Oakland conduct sweeps of encampments without arresting residents or destroying their belongings?
This victory sets a precedent challenging the City of Oakland’s practice of clearing encampments by stealing and destroying the property of unhoused residents using trash compactors. Further, the City of Oakland is aware that the criminalization of homelessness must end in order to avoid future liability.
In the prior litigation Miralle v. City of Oakland, Case No. 18-cv-06823-HSG, the City of Oakland avoided the court imposing a preliminary injunction by making representations that they would follow their “stated procedures”. (see: https://www.leagle.com/decision/infdco20181129b09)
The court in Van Hung V. Schaaf agreed with unhoused residents who asserted that the City of Oakland “did, in fact, seize and destroy property at that encampment in violation of both the City’s Standard Operating Procedure and the representations that the City made before Judge Gilliam.”
Another case, Shipp v. Schaaf, Case No. 19-cv-01709-JST, was initiated by the residents of the encampment at East 12th Street and 16th Avenue in the City of Oakland. In both Miralle and Shipp the residents received Temporary Restraining Orders providing them more time to prepare for the clearing of their encampments. (see: https://www.leagle.com/decision/infdco20190404961) Even though this litigation did not stop the sweeps, the City of Oakland is now facing scrutiny by the courts for civil rights violations against these unhoused residents while these cases are pending.
The above cases and others still pending are the culmination of over a year of work by the Meiklejohn Civil Liberties Institute (MCLI) in our Campaign for the Human Rights of Landless People. In 2018, MCLI developed and distributed templates for homeless encampments to file civil rights lawsuits as self-represented litigants. MCLI did this because the notice provided to encampments was insufficient to have time to find attorneys to represent these unhoused residents. Accordingly, MCLI has been coordinating directly with unhoused residents to commence multiple lawsuits in the City of Oakland.
This work was inspired by MCLI’s collaboration with First They Came for the Homeless in filing the case Sullivan v. City of Berkeley, No. C 17-06051 WHA. The court in Sullivan recently denied the City of Berkeley’s efforts to have the case dismissed. (see: https://www.leagle.com/decision/infdco20190423910)
MCLI wants to thank attorney Osha Neuman from the East Bay Community Law Center for his assistance on the ground as well as attorneys EmilyRose Johns and Dan Siegel from Siegel, Yee, Brunner, & Mehta, and attorney Joshua Piovia-Scott from Hadsell, Stormer, & Renick who stepped up to represent these unhoused residents after their cases were initiated. These attorneys have done tremendous work assisting these unhoused residents.
As we move forward, it is MCLI’s goal to end the criminalization of homelessness throughout the United States. To do this we need to secure victories in and beyond the S.F. Bay Area. This will require our continued efforts to develop and distribute civil rights templates facilitating further litigation.
In addition to ending the criminalization of homelessness, MCLI is committed to fight for the human right to housing. We cannot content ourselves to merely accept ever expanding encampments throughout our communities. We must end homelessness by ensuring that all community members have access to housing regardless of their income or other barriers.
Housing is a human right!
It is universally agreed that the most fundamental human right is the right to life. It is well known that sleeping exposed to the elements will eventually result in sickness and death.
In the U.S. Constitution the right to life is proclaimed as “sacred & undeniable” as well as “inherent & inalienable”.
The U.S. voted for the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) which states in Article 25 as follows:
“Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.”
The Unites States signed the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR). Article 11 of ICESCR guarantees the right to housing. As a signatory of ICESCR the United States cannot defeat the object and purpose of the treaty by allowing a permanent state of homelessness for large numbers of people in our communities.
MCLI is seeking political solutions by engaging with officials in the cities of Oakland, Berkeley, and Richmond to end the criminalization of homelessness and increase low-income and no-income housing.
MCLI has also asked for the United Nations Human Rights Committee to monitor the treatment and conditions of unhoused people in the United States. (See: http://www.mclihumanrights.org/2019/01/27/mcli-steps-up-as-trump-rejects-the-human-rights-council/)
At the end of the day we need to seek a permanent solution to end homelessness.