City Violates Court Order on Homeless Sweeps, says Coalition

by Javier Bremond

The Coalition on Homelessness, San Francisco has documented numerous violations of the preliminary injunction issued by a federal judge in their lawsuit against the City of San Francisco for violating the constitutional rights of unhoused San Franciscans. 

In September 2022, the Coalition filed a lawsuit stating that the City has been unjustly sweeping homeless individuals by displacing them with no alternatives to adequate shelter, taking their belongings with no recourse to get those items back, and making threats of a citation or jail for not moving in time. 

A preliminary injunction ruled in December 2022 that San Francisco was banned from these practices while the lawsuit is happening, but community members have reported to the Coalition that this has not been respected. The policies–which the City set themselves–seem more like guidelines or suggestions they can choose to ignore. 

In response, the City has appealed the court decision that did not rule in their favor and stated they are allowed to clear these sidewalks so they are not “obstructed” and are strictly for “cleaning activities.” Many stories from people in affected communities understand this to be wrong. Unhoused people continue to be moved from their living spaces without the resources that are needed. 

San Francisco does not have enough shelter beds to house the thousands of its unhoused residents, said UCLA sociology professor Chris Herring in a declaration for the lawsuit. Instead of providing shelter or the permanent supportive housing that advocates in the City have asked for, the prevailing notion is to keep homeless people out of sight and out of mind. Though the court clearly ordered that San Francisco should stop the sweeps, the City is undoubtedly not following that order. Ultimately, our City needs truly affordable housing but in the meantime we can start holding it to the laws in place.