ACLU urges Santa Cruz City Council to condemn ordinances that target unhoused people.
In another cruel and unethical attempt to displace hundreds of people without houses, Santa Cruz City Staff announced that it will submit an Outdoor Living Ordinance to City Council today for a vote. The ordinance specifies areas where people will not be allowed to sleep. Everyone will be forced to pack their belongings at the end of each night. Daytime camping will be banned.
Before the ordinance was published, more than fifty letters of support were sent to City Council, using the same language found in the ordinance. The ordinance had been leaked to organizations that oppose empathetic solutions to poverty and homelessness presumably to get a jump on letters of support.
The ACLU strongly opposes this ordinance and urges the City Council to vote against it and any future effort to displace people particularly in dangerous times of COVID and especially when no alternative is made available.
From the ACLU:
February 23, 2021 RE: Proposed Ordinance No. 2021 Dear Mayor Meyers and Members of the Santa Cruz City Council, The ACLU of Northern California condemns the increased regulations targeting unhoused individuals in Santa Cruz and urges the City Council to reject a proposal to establish Ordinance No. 2021 amending Chapter 6.36 currently entitled “Camping” and hereafter entitled “Regulations for Temporary Outdoor Living” of the Santa Cruz Municipal Code. Numerous courts have iterated the rights of unhoused people seeking necessary shelter, and in the middle of an unprecedented pandemic that has already devastated local economies and exacerbated poor living conditions, barring individuals from sheltering is not only inhumane, but will lead to catastrophic health risks. And while the ordinance language suggests that it abides by Martin v City of Boise 920 F.3d 584 (9th Cir. 2019) this is not true. By criminalizing the act of sleeping through strict prohibitions, the ordinance likely violates the Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution under Ninth Circuit precedent. The City of Santa Cruz has historically, and continues to, target unhoused populations despite an expansion of shelter capacity. Limiting unhoused individuals’ ability to seek shelter will only further escalate this public health crisis, especially when they are forced to move from location to location. Additionally, it places an increased mental and physical burden on individuals who are already struggling to find a warm and safe place to live during the winter months. A number of the unhoused population are families who have been displaced from the recent fires, having lost any stability from one catastrophe to the next. Prior attempts by the City of Santa Cruz to manage unsheltered homelessness, via ordinances targeting a ban on sleeping in public, has been deemed unconstitutional and ineffective. Today’s ordinance is similarly problematic in that it will fail to address and mitigate the environmental and social impact of encampments that city leaders are touting to be the reason behind this ordinance This ordinance shows that the City is more concerned with the visibility of unhoused folks and their encampments than decreasing so-called environmental hazards or increasing the welfare of the public. In fact, The National Homelessness Law Center found in a 2019 report that beyond the individual cost of limiting sheltering like the loss of medication, ID, and documentation, the costs to the taxpayers for taking punitive approaches is staggering — tens of thousands of dollars spent on enforcement alone. Ordinances discriminately targeting unhoused individuals are not effective in solving housing crises or alleviating the burden on businesses or the environment. Instead, the ordinance the City of Santa Cruz is proposing will cause more harm than good to the city’s residents, of which the unhoused population is a
part. We urge you, Mayor Meyers and the City Council, to condemn this and future ordinances targeting unhoused folks, and instead work with your community to find meaningful solutions that will ensure the dignity and wellbeing of the unhoused in Santa Cruz. Please feel free to reach out to us via email at email@example.com with any questions or concerns. Sincerely, Brandon Greene Director – Racial and Economic Justice Program ACLU Foundation of Northern California Peter Gelblum Chapter Chair, ACLU of Northern California, Santa Cruz County Chapter