Ticketing The Homeless
Posted September 17, 2006
For 14 years the City of San Diego has had a law on the books that tickets "illegal lodging." This law is used to ticket and arrest homeless men and women who are sleeping on the street for not having another place to sleep. In 2004 the estimates were that 4,400 people were homeless in the City. In the same year, it was estimated that there was shelter space enough so that 2,000 persons could be off of the street.
In the 14 years that this law has been in place, more than 24,000 tickets have been issued. The vast majority have been issued since 2003.
This process has a very detrimental effect on those who are forced to live on the streets. All night long they must move around the city to avoid being caught sleeping by the police sleeping. When they are arrested, they often lose their belongings, including vital records, identification, and medicines, and they are branded as criminals for having no home. We have worked with persons who are in need of medical attention but could not go to important appointments because they were arrested the night before. We have worked with folks who have actually lost jobs which may have helped them off of the street, because of this law. This law is not given for disturbing the peace, or any other illegal activity other than "lodging" meaning "sleeping."
In 2005, Larry Miligan and 9 homeless individuals filed a suit in federal court claiming that this law was unconstitutional, that it violated the 8th amendment statute pertaining to "cruel and unusual punishment." At this time, that federal hearing continues. In the intervening time, a quite similar case has been heard in the city of Los Angeles. In the LA case, the city was found to indeed have violated homeless persons’ constitutional rights. LA appealed the case and lost again in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. Not to be deterred, they have appealed to the Supreme Court. However, until it is decided whether the case will be heard or not, the federal judges have clearly issued an opinion.
On September 13, 2006, Larry Milligan, Noel Estergren, and Jim Lovell went to City Hall where Larry spoke in the City Council meeting. He read an open letter to Mayor Jerry Sanders, asking for a moratorium on these "Sleeping Tickets" based on the ruling of the federal courts. Larry then went downstairs to the entrance to the City Hall tower where he is fasting and waiting for an answer.
TACO Director Jim Lovell is asking for support of Larry Milligan’s effort to have the city follow and obey all of our constitutional rights.
How You Can Help
Visit Larry if you can and let him know that your support and prayers are with him.
Contact your council member and the mayor's office to let them know that you wish for the moratorium. To contact the Mayor, visit this site.
Send a card of support to Larry Milligan c/o Jim Lovell, TACO Director, 1420 Third Avenue, San Diego 92101
To read a newspaper article about this topic, click here.