City of SLO Lawsuit Alleges Criminalization of Homelessness



A group of nonprofit law firms are taking legal action against the city of San Luis Obispo to end the city’s alleged criminalization of homelessness.

The lawsuit claims the city is violating the constitutional rights of the homeless population by dismantling settlements during the pandemic and illegally seizing and destroying people’s property.

Frank Kopcinski is the senior attorney for California Rural Legal Assistance in San Luis Obispo, which is one of the nonprofits bringing the lawsuit.

Kopcinski said the basis for this lawsuit comes from a 2019 case known as Martin v. Wooded.

“This case says it is a violation of the 8th Amendment of the US Constitution, it is cruel and unusual punishment to criminally prosecute people for living, sleeping, resting outside while ‘they don’t have adequate shelter in a jurisdiction, “Kopcinski said. .

According to the 2019 San Luis Obispo County Homelessness Census and Survey, there were 326 homeless people living homeless in the city of San Luis Obispo.

Jack Lahey, director of homelessness services at the city’s only homeless shelter, 40 Prado, told KCBX News their maximum capacity is 124 – but it can be increased on nights they open their heated refuge.

Kopcinski said they were not seeking any compensation for homeless people who were allegedly affected. He said the main goal of the trial is to end the alleged criminalization, but they also hope it proves that additional resources, like housing, can improve the lives of the homeless population.

Becky Jorgeson of Hopes Village, an organization that works to build sustainable homes for homeless veterans and their families in SLO County, spoke at a press conference on the trial.

She said the city is not doing enough and the answer to reducing homelessness is simple.

“It’s not rocket science. People need housing, ”Jorgeson said. “They don’t just need services. And the city says, “Well, we provide a lot of services. They don’t just need services. They need housing. They need a roof over their head. They need a bathroom. They need a sink. They need a coffee maker and a place to store their documents. This does not happen.

In a statement to KCBX News, the city said:

“This lawsuit is particularly disheartening because the city is doing more than ever to increase the number of housing units here and provide public services to homeless and homeless community members. We are confident and will continue our years of hard work to fight back. proactively tackling homelessness in San Luis Obispo. We remain committed to balancing compassion for the most vulnerable members of our community with the responsibility to ensure that individuals and groups obey the law. people remember that there are many sides to every story. This is an extremely complex set of issues, and our staff go to extraordinary lengths to help vulnerable people and protect our community every day. We will stand up for our community before the courts, and we ask the community to refrain from passing judgment until all the facts are fully verified through legal process. “


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