The City of Santa Cruz and several individual government workers are staring down a lawsuit filed pro se by Ross Homeless Encampment residents and several advocacy groups who claim the city’s plan to evict campers without providing alternative shelter violates their constitutional rights.
The case—which also names as defendants the city’s chief of police and “Take Back Santa Cruz,” a reportedly anti-homeless group the suit connects to the city’s police department—seeks to enjoin the parties from their controversial plan to shut down the Ross Camp and “clean up” the premises on April 17th.
According to the lawsuit, the city originally planned to evict residents of the camp and split them between two sites in Depot Park, but has since dropped the idea due to pressure from the neighborhood. Nevertheless, the defendants, the suit says, plan to continue with the eviction without providing somewhere else for campers to go and despite the lack of available beds in shelters within the city.
The complaint cites a ruling in a previous case, Martin v. Boise, which declared that criminalizing homeless individuals who have no choice but to occupy public spaces was cruel and unusual punishment. Ross Camp residents have all supposedly received prior citations for acts such as sitting in public, trespassing, and excessive use of public space, the lawsuit says, arguing that they will be subject to additional criminalization should they be kicked out of the camp without having other accommodations.
Without the camp, which the plaintiffs say was formed out of necessity by people who sought safety in numbers, its 200 residents “will be scattered around the City and beyond where they will be vulnerable to the elements, police harassment and violent acts by those who don’t want the homeless to be in Santa Cruz,” the suit says.