Preliminary Injunction Protects the Rights of Homeless Individuals in Santa Rosa

On July 12, 2019, the Northern District of California entered a stipulated preliminary injunction in Vannucci v. County of Sonoma, Case No. 3:18-cv-01955-VC, a civil rights lawsuit brought in spring of 2018 by homeless individuals and the advocacy organization Homeless Action! against the City of Santa Rosa, the County of Sonoma, and the Sonoma County Community Development Commission regarding Defendants’ enforcement of anti-camping laws against homeless persons without first offering adequate shelter that met their disability-related needs.

“This stipulated preliminary injunction will help to protect the rights of homeless individuals with disabilities, and to promote meaningful access to homeless services in Sonoma County.”
– Melissa Morris, staff attorney at the Public Interest Law Project.

The injunction, which applies to enforcement actions against homeless persons living on public property within the city of Santa Rosa (including County owned property within Santa Rosa, will be in effect August 12, 2019, through June 30, 2020.  It requires that, before the City or County takes an enforcement action against a homeless individual who has established a dwelling outdoors, they must first provide that individual reasonable notice and make an offer of adequate shelter. The injunction defines adequate shelter based on a variety of factors, including an individual’s specific, disability-related needs, their having a service animal or pet, their gender, and their religious or ethical beliefs.

“Criminally punishing homeless individuals for sleeping on the street when they have nowhere else to go is inhumane. This agreement will help to ensure that the City and County will offer adequate placements instead of simply arresting and citing people for camping or conducting other life sustaining activities which they must do in order to survive.”
– Adrienne Lauby, a founding member of Homeless Action!

Adequacy will also depend on the conditions of the facility, including a requirement that the shelter be immediately available for 30 consecutive days or more, and that the shelter must be open both days and nights.  The injunction also establishes requirements for the preservation and storage of homeless individuals’ personal property, including a prohibition against destroying homeless individuals’ unattended (as opposed to abandoned) property and a requirement to store personal property for 90 days.

PILP, along with California Rural Legal Assistance, represents Plaintiffs Nicholle Vannucci, Ellen Brown, Shannon Hall, and Homeless Action!

Read PILP and CRLA’s Press Release Here.

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