A group of homeless residents living in encampments south of Seattle have sued the local government after their belongings were swept up and thrown out.
The National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty, representing six plaintiffs, filed a lawsuit against Puyallup and Pierce County, saying the process was an illegal seizure.
Among the belongings dumped by the government were clothes, medical records, a GED and a birth certificate. A military veteran lost the tools he uses at work.
“Homelessness is a crisis across the country, but simply removing people from public view is notthe solution,” Maria Foscarinis, executive director at the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty, said in a press release. “Puyallup’s approach is not only cruel, it is shortsighted,counterproductive and a waste of taxpayer dollars.”
The city of Puyallup, however, claimed that it was prioritizing “health and safety for all citizens in our community.”
“When it is necessary to conduct a homeless encampment clean-up due to the clear presence of dangerous and unhealthy conditions, all affected persons are given ample notice and sufficient time to collect and remove their belongings,” a press release reads. “They are also referred to resources and services which can assist them if they choose to accept such services.”
Pierce County spokeswoman Libby Catalinich told the Tacoma News-Tribune that the residents were given 30 days’ notice before the seizures. She also said the county provided the residents with access to government-run services.
“Those programs and services include support for those with behavioral health challenges and housing instability,” she tld the newspaper. “Our actions are based on the welfare of individuals living in unsafe and unsanitary conditions, and we make every effort to support a positive transition.”
The National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty begs to differ, claiming the cleanings happened “often without giving any, or adequate and effective, notice, without offering any opportunity to challenge the carrying out of the sweeps, and without preserving the property seized for later retrieval.”