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Sunday, March 25, 2012

California Camp Raids Compensate

Cynthia Hubert, a writer for the Sacramento Bee recently reported that hundreds of homeless men and women this past week began filing reimbursement claims for tents, bicycles and other items seized by Sacramento police during raids of illegal encampments since 2005.

In a highly unusual agreement reached between the city and homeless plaintiffs to resolve a class-action lawsuit, people who show that the city destroyed their belongings each will be paid either $400 or $750, depending upon the value of the property.

The city will make the payments to homeless plaintiffs "somewhat grudgingly," Senior Deputy City Attorney Chance Trimm said Thursday. "We still don't think we did anything wrong in terms of how we handled the property of the homeless," he said . . .

James Little, 51, is among those who are filing for compensation. Little said he lost a trailer that he used to haul his belongings around town during a raid downtown along Bannon Street about two years ago. "They took all my property, everything I owned including my dog, Lucky," who ended up at the city pound. Little said he got his dog back but was unable to retrieve his other things.

In the trial in federal court last year, a jury found that the city failed to properly notify homeless people about how to retrieve their possessions, and failed to implement policies for handling that property. The panel rejected several other claims, including that the city had a "long-standing custom and practice" of unreasonably seizing and destroying property of campers and failing to give them reasonable notice of sweeps.

The trial featured a parade of homeless and formerly homeless people, some of whom testified tearfully about losing "survival gear," including sleeping bags and tents, as well as personal items from family photographs to prescription medications . . .
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