Tent City Lawsuit?
By Cheryl Reza
Posted: Jan 12, 2010, Updated: Jan 13, 2010
COLORADO SPRINGS – The battle over what to do about “tent city” is heating up. City officials say they may have to re-consider a “no camping” ordinance. Lawsuits are popping up across the United States related to ordinances that prevent homeless people from sleeping on sidewalks or in city parks.
Legal Director for the Denver chapter of the ACLU, Mark Silverstein says, “the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals said that there was a potential legal claim that such an ordinance enforced in that situation could violate the 8th amendment.” The case challenged a Los Angeles ordinance prohibiting people sleeping outside on the sidewalks. The 8th amendment prohibits “cruel and usual punishment.” Silverstein adds, “the idea is they can’t help doing it because they got nowhere to go and you have got to sleep and you have no home and there are no shelters you sleep outside.” 9th Circuit Court of Appeals is the highest court to have consider this type of decision.
The ruling of the court says when the city doesn’t provide adequate shelters they can’t constitutionally enforce a law making it a crime to sleep in public places, Silverstein says, “the rationale is that it’s punishing people for something they can’t help but do you have to sleep sometime.”
The case was decided in 2006. Other law suits are pending across the country, where civil rights attorneys are suing city government for imposing “no camping” type of ordinances in city limits.