Lawsuit against Sacramento 'anti-camping' ordinance set for trial 8 years later

Civil rights attorney Mark Merin allowed nearly two dozen homeless people to camp out on his property, but they were later cited and eventually arrested, which he's calling unconstitutional. (Oct. 23, 2017)

A civil lawsuit against Sacramento’s ‘anti-camping’ ordinance that started in late 2009 is finally set for trial eight years later.

Sacramento civil rights attorney Mark Merin appeared in Sacramento Superior Court on Monday to go over preliminary issues with the judge. On Tuesday, jurors will be selected for the actual trial to start Wednesday.

The lawsuit argues that the City of Sacramento's 'anti-camping' ordinance is unconstitutional, because, according to Merin, it’s selectively enforced against the homeless community. It argues that people who are not homeless and routinely “camp out” to get deals at stores are not threatened with arrest.

Merin said plaintiffs are not seeking monetary damages. They just want the City of Sacramento to designate areas where homeless people can stay as they try to get into housing.

Merin also added that homeless people who want to attend the trial can leave their belongings with a designated attendant.

Dozens already showed up Monday for court before the trial.

Milton Harris was homeless for a few years. He identified himself as one of the plaintiffs of the case. His experience on the streets changed his life and his perspective.

"We all go through things," said Harris. "I never recognized homelessness when I was living indoors and working. The criminalization is while I was trying to get back on my feet, I was basically chased around, cited, made me feel like I had a boot standing on my back, could never get up."

Harris has been working as a plumber for the past eight years. He doesn't fault law enforcement - in fact, he said he understands they were just doing their job.

He just feels the current ordinance continues the cycle of homelessness.

Former construction worker John Kraintz agrees. He is now retired.

"I became homeless because of rising rents colliding with falling wages," said Kraintz.

He said in his time being homeless, he realized building homes didn't mean he would always have one.

Many of the homeless who gathered at court on Monday have known each other for years but lost touch.

Ashmore is also now off the streets. Like many others, he came hoping for results.

"I just wish people realized, that you may not want [homeless camps] in your backyard," said Harris. "But it might be you tomorrow. You're going to want it to be there."

© 2017 KXTV-TV


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