SAN FRANCISCO (November 13) – Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton along with the East Bay Community Law Center and the Homeless Action Center announced that today they have filed a lawsuit against the City of Albany on behalf of Albany Housing Advocates and ten homeless Albany residents who currently live on a closed landfill known as the Albany Bulb.
The lawsuit and request for a temporary restraining order was filed after the City of Albany failed to respond to a demand letter asking the City to postpone its plan to evict Bulb residents in the middle of November at the beginning of the rainy season and as winter approaches. Plaintiffs ask that they not be evicted until a plan is developed to provide them access to suitable housing. Plaintiffs’ complaint asserts that the City’s offer to set up a temporary shelter in portables parked next to the entrance road to the landfill is insufficient given that there will not be enough beds for everyone who is evicted, the portables will be inaccessible to many Bulb residents with disabilities, and they will not provide people the right to privacy that they currently enjoy in their homes on the Bulb.
“After years of allowing and even encouraging the homeless to seek shelter on the Bulb, the City’s sudden decision to reverse course and evict Bulb residents on the eve of winter after having made no progress to address the lack of housing or shelter in the City puts this population at great risk,” according to Maureen Sheehy, who is leading the effort for Kilpatrick Townsend.
“A number of Albany residents who are experiencing homelessness have come to make the Bulb their home, some for as long as fifteen or more years. The Bulb has been the City’s de facto homeless shelter, and now even that is being taken away,” she commented.
The City has announced that it plans to begin enforcing section 8-4 of the Albany Municipal Code, which would not only make it illegal for the plaintiffs to continue living at the Bulb, but would apply to all open spaces in Albany. Apart from the temporary portables it is installing, Albany lacks a single shelter bed and has no program to provide transitional housing or supported living arrangements for homeless people. Even for those residents of the Bulb with an income, there is not a single unit of low-income housing available in Albany. Given Albany’s failure to provide a legal place where people who are homeless can stay, the complaint filed today contends that Albany’s planned enforcement of section 8-4 violates the Constitution as it essentially makes it illegal to be homeless in Albany.
“The provisions of Ordinance 8-4 effectively criminalize anyone who happens to be homeless and attempts to spend the night within the City limits. To avoid its sanctions, a homeless person would have to stay awake and be constantly on the move. Because Albany doesn’t provide them a legal alternative, its enforcement of section 8-4 its anti-camping ordinance cannot be used against homeless individuals currently living on the Bulb without violating the Constitution’s Eighth Amendment prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment,” says Osha Neumann, an attorney with East Bay Community Law Center.
For additional information, please contact Maureen Sheehy (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Osha Neumann (email@example.com, (510) 717-8604).
Legal Team Marc Lieberstein, Barry Benjamin, and Kristen Garris received the “2015 Commitment to Justice Award” by Her Justice.
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