Federal Judge Turns Down Sacramento Homeless Union Request to Extend Order Protecting Unhoused from Elements

“Photos provided by Sacramento Homeless Union”

By Crescenzo Vellucci

The Vanguard Sacramento Bureau Chief

SACRAMENTO, CA – When a federal judge ruled Wednesday not to extend an injunction in place much of this summer that prevented the city of Sacramento from clearing homeless camps, unhoused advocates said they were “disappointed, but not surprised.”

U.S. District Judge Troy Nunley ruled the weather isn’t expected to be that hot throughout the rest of  September, and the city has fixed some of the reported problems at its Miller Park homeless facility.

Nunley ruled “a further preliminary injunction prohibiting the clearing of all homeless encampments in Sacramento would be overly broad,” and the city has mitigated the “danger” to unhoused at Miller Park, like providing popups over tests.

The Sacramento Homeless Union last month inspected the Miller Park facility, and found tents situated on hot pavement, away from cooling trees, electrical cords next to pools of water and other dangerous situations. 

The judge didn’t mention some of those purported dangers in his order, but suggested the 90s temperatures in September aren’t a problem.

However, the homeless union disagreed, noting despite “medical evidence submitted to the Court showed that even at temperatures in the mid to high eighties, vulnerable populations such as the unhoused are at an increased risk of harm.”

The union’s brief, quoting “experts,” said “no weather-related phenomenon, including floods, annually claims more lives than extreme heat. Moreover…the number of people who die as the result of such exposure is certainly greater than what may be reported.”

“We also disagree with Judge Nunley’s view that a preliminary injunction must be limited in its protection to only those plaintiffs expressly named in the lawsuit, as opposed to a class action…another district court judge issued a temporary restraining order…that prevented the City of Los Angeles from enforcing an anti-loitering ordinance against the homeless,” added the union.

Sacramento Homeless Union attorney Anthony Prince said, “Judge Nunley’s order raises the possibility that the Union may now seek to certify vulnerable unhoused persons as a class in our current, still active underlying civil rights suit, as well as in future cases where the same issue of state-created danger may be presented.”

Prince added, “While disappointed by this Order, we are nevertheless grateful that during some of this summer’s worst heat, the Court twice issued prior orders halting the City’s cruel practice of pushing unhoused persons out of areas of shade and protection from the heat into more dangerous, more directly exposed circumstances.”

“Excessive heat claims more lives every year in California and across the country than any other weather-related condition, including floods, and we know that Judge Nunley’s orders helped prevent needless suffering and deaths in the otherwise faced by thousands of unhoused Sacramentans,” Prince  said.

The union referenced “hope” for a “more durable” order that would protect the unhoused in the future, “because the question of weather extremes and their disproportionate impact on the unhoused is certain to present itself again as the effects of climate change and the ranks of the homeless both continue to grow.”

Prince also noted the city’s appeal of the judge’s earlier orders to spare unhoused sweeps is still ongoing, commenting, the “issue there will be whether Judge Nunley abused his discretion in granting the earlier injunctions. We believe that Judge Nunley’s prior rulings were legally sound and we expect to win in the Ninth Circuit.”

About The Author

Veteran news reporter and editor, including stints at the Sacramento Bee, Woodland Democrat, and Vietnam war correspondent and wire service bureau chief at the State Capitol.

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