Human Rights Victory Today – A Win against City of LA’s Continued Efforts to Criminalize Homelessness instead of Ending It

Today, the 9th Circuit of the US Court of Appeals overturned a prior lower court decision and ruled that LA Municipal Code Section 85.02 (which prohibits living/sleeping in a vehicle) is an unconstitutionally vague statute and opens the door to discriminatory enforcement against the homeless and the poor.  The Court’s decision states, “Plaintiffs argue that Section 85.02 is unconstitutionally vague on its face because it provides insufficient notice of the conduct it penalizes and promotes arbitrary and discriminatory enforcement.  We agree.”

This important case was litigated by Civil Rights Attorney Carol Sobel, with co-counsel by Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles, and homeless individuals who were impacted by Section 85.02 enforcement by LAPD.  Several community-based organizations fighting against criminalization and forced displacement in Venice and across the City supported this case as well.  This fight is crucial to upholding the human rights of everyone, of ensuring homeless and poor people have full and equal access to public spaces, and – for those that do have vehicles but have no current access to housing – ensures at least some shelter and safety protections over sleeping on the streets.

California and Los Angeles should enact Homeless Bills of Rights to protect the civil rights of homeless residents, seriously invest in housing solutions, and stop expensive and inhumane criminalization efforts.  Segregation and criminalization of public space cannot continue and this victory is one step toward that.  To get involved in local and statewide campaigns, contact Eric or Dogon at LA CAN, and/or attend the next LA-region Homeless Bill of Rights meeting on Thursday, June 26th at 6:00 PM at LA CAN (838 E. 6th Street, LA 90021).

The full court decision can be read here:  9th circuit DECISION June 2014