ACLU Report Condemns Local Governments’ Discrimination against Unhouse People

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Photo by Jiroe on Unsplash

By Amy Berberyan

CALIFORNIA – The ACLU foundations of Northern California, Southern California, and San Diego & Imperial Counties released a report this month spotlighting the tactics that cities and counties throughout California have utilized to discriminate against unhoused people.

“The plight of people who are unhoused has reached horrific proportions in California,” said the ACLU in a statement, adding, “but instead of embarking on a resurgence of affordable housing, communities have instead instituted policies and regulations that target unhouse people by harassing, citing, segregating, banishing, and even imprisoning them.”

The report, titled “Outside the Law: The Legal War Against Unhoused People,” draws attention to how the discrimination the cities and counties participate in often goes against the bedrock principle of equal treatment under the law.

Within the report’s executive summary, discrimination against unhoused people was found to be both “spreading and becoming more commonplace” and taking “an increasingly wide variety of forms.” Governments are exploiting legal loopholes to take advantage of the unhoused, the reports asserts.

The “Outside the Law” report mentions “policies, practices, and proposals including citing, jailing, displacing, and harassing people for being unhoused; and geographically and socially marginalizing and banishing them to remote places, like riverbeds and deserts, where they are far removed from lifesaving resources like food, water, and health care.”

Local governments also withhold lifesaving services from unhoused people, the ACLU charges, noting that public restrooms, for example, are withheld from the unhoused by the same municipalities that punish them for necessary bodily functions like urination.

Furthermore, according to the ACLU, municipalities “are increasingly imposing fines and fees–even for sitting in a park for only a few minutes–far beyond an unhoused person’s ability to pay,” adding that not only are the cities attacking the unhoused in this way, but they are also targeting “the humanitarian organizations that provide critical aid such as food, water, clothing, and blankets” to the unhoused.

This targeting of respite is often done in response to when attacking the unhoused themselves is ineffective in ridding them from communities, reported the ACLU, adding that municipalities “harass, sue, and try to shut down a wide range of places and establishments that provide respite and refuge for unhoused people.”

As a result of dismantling and interrupting humanitarian aid toward the unhoused, local governments participate in rampant and unchecked discrimination that can have life-threatening consequences for the unhoused, the report claims, showing that the discrimination it documents “[deprives] people of necessary bodily requirements like rest, sleep, and sanitation.”

The ACLU charges discrimination works to “separate [the unhoused] from life-saving resources like food, water, and healthcare, segregate them in (often unsanitary and abusive) mass shelters and jails (away from family, loved ones, and animal companions), and isolate them in hazardous environments like riverbeds or deserts.”

The ACLU claims that “the ordinances and regulations adopted by cities are often purposefully vague as to allow for harassment.”

The city of Novato, for example, said the ACLU, banned camping in city parks, open spaces, and within 50 feet of “critical infrastructure.” The city manager, when questioned where unhoused people could exist, said “anywhere it’s not illegal would be legal.”

The report also cites “Chico, Laguna Beach, Lancaster, Los Angeles, San Diego, Santa Ana, and Santa Cruz” as cities that have policies and practices that target unhoused people.

Furthermore, the report calls on communities to “amend anti-discrimination laws to include unhoused people and acknowledge their fundamental human rights.

“All levels of government must do their part to end the violently discriminatory policies and practices proliferating across California,” said the ACLU report. “Yet, as discrimination against unhoused people has intensified at the community level, most state-level leaders have remained on the sidelines at best. At worst, many have proposed discriminatory policy ideas of their own.”

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About The Author

Amy is a UCLA student majoring in English and Philosophy. She is interested in law and is from Burbank, California.

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2 thoughts on “ACLU Report Condemns Local Governments’ Discrimination against Unhouse People”

  1. Alan Miller

    The city of Novato, for example, said the ACLU, banned camping in city parks, open spaces, and within 50 feet of “critical infrastructure.”

    Oh Novato is so mean!  Stop being mean, Novato!  Allow the so-called “homeless” to camp in city parks, open spaces and near critical infrastructure.  You all will have a special, guaranteed ticket to heaven.

    The city manager, when questioned where unhoused people could exist, said “anywhere it’s not illegal would be legal.”

    Crass, but true.

    The report also cites “Chico, Laguna Beach, Lancaster, Los Angeles, San Diego, Santa Ana, and Santa Cruz” as cities that have policies and practices that target unhoused people.

    What is funny about this list is that these are all blue towns with huge so-called homeless issues, spend money on programs to ‘solve’ the issues, and that tolerate open street so-called homelessness much more than many towns.  This goes to my theory that lefties attack lefty places and people, because they can take advantage of feelings such a ‘white guilt’ that can be found in these places, and achieve more politically.  Take this to Dixon and see what happens.

    I went to Chico a couple of months ago for just a few hours, and in that short time had two direct, scary encounters with so-called homeless individuals, like where I felt threatened.  I was shocked at what Chico had become.  There were zombie-like disheveled individuals everywhere in the center few miles of town.  Friends there told me there is a huge rift in the town between progressives and State of Jeffersonites that is spilling into harsh confrontations at City Council meetings.  An airport site is used as official housing but is poorly used as it’s miles from the center of town.

    For the first half-century of my life pretty much abortion was the only extremists-on-both-sides-wanting-to-kill-each-other issue, now it’s defund the police, what to do with so-called homeless, critical race theory in schools . . .

    Civil war, anyone? . . . . . happy new year!

    PS.  And in this whole article, not one whiff of the word “meth”.

    1. Bill Marshall

      As we are seeing, particularly since Jan 6, 2021, if there is an inter-nicene ‘war’, it will be far from “civil”… the prelude certainly hasn’t been ‘civil’…

      Perhaps it will be a “war between the states of mind”… nah, that’s too ‘confederate’ so this post will certainly be expunged on PC grounds…

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