Miami Agreement A Victory Against Anti-Homeless Laws FWD

Tom Boland (wgcp@earthlink.net)
Tue, 23 Dec 1997 10:42:55 -0800 (PST)


=46WD from National Coalition for the Homeless <HN0055@handsnet.org>  11-22-=
97

"Miami Agreement a Victory Against Anti-Homeless Laws"

Last week the City of Miami and the American Civil Liberties Union signed a
joint resolution ending a nine-year lawsuit filed on behalf of a class of 5,=
000
homeless persons who sued the City of Miami in 1988 for violations of their
civil rights based on their homeless status.

The Settlement Agreement is the result of the collective efforts of ACLU
attorneys on behalf of homeless plaintiffs, the City Attorney's Office, and
numerous other community leaders, homeless activists, and homeless persons o=
ver
the last two years.

The Agreement provides for:

* Police training regarding the circumstances and rights of homeless people;
* A protocol for law enforcement contracts with homeless persons that ensure=
s
that people without shelter cannot be arrested for merely living in public;
* The creation and maintenance of records regarding police contacts with
homeless persons;
* An advisory committee to monitor compliance with the Agreement;
* A $600,000 compensation for homeless persons who were injured by the
unconstitutional conduct that was condemned by the federal courts; and
* Attorney fees for the plaintiffs' lawyers.

The Agreement must still be approved by U.S. District Court Judge C. Clyde
Atkins after all affected plaintiffs have an opportunity to be heard.

"This is a landmark settlement recognizing that homeless persons cannot be
denied fundamental constitutional rights simply because they are homeless," =
said
cooperating ACLU attorney Benjamin S. Waxman, who has worked on the case for=
 the
past nine years.  "The settlement reached today shows the best of what can b=
e
accomplished when two sides of a dispute work together to find common ground=
 to
accomplish a mutual goal, and may serve as a model for how other cities trea=
t
the homeless."

The lawsuit, Pottinger v. City of Miami, charged that the City's policy was =
to
arrest and harass involuntarily homeless residents of Miami, based on little
more than their public presence, for the purpose of driving them out of the =
city
or otherwise rendering them invisible.  The case was tried in 1992 before th=
e
Honorable Federal District Judge C. Clyde Atkins who found that the City of
Miami=BCs mistreatment of homeless persons violated various provisions of=
 the Bill
of Rights and ordered that the city establish two "safe zones" where homeles=
s
persons could congregate and conduct essential, life-sustaining activities
(sleeping, sitting, standing, eating, etc.) without fear of arrest or police
harassment.

The City appealed the ruling to the Eleventh Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals i=
n
Atlanta which sent the case back to Judge Atkins for a determination whether=
,
based on projects undertaken by the newly-formed Dade County Community Homel=
ess
Trust to assist homeless persons, circumstances had changed to render the
court=BCs injunction unnecessary.  Following another extensive hearing in 19=
94,
Judge Atkins concluded that, while the Homeless Trust's programs had certain=
ly
improved conditions for homeless persons in Dade County, there were still
involuntarily homeless persons living on the streets who were being arrested
based on nothing more than their homeless status.  The city appealed this
ruling.  This time the court referred the case to the Eleventh Circuit Media=
tor
and directed the parties to negotiate a settlement.

=46or further information, contact:

Howard Simon or Jessica Connor, ACLU/Florida--305-576-2337 or

Benjamin Waxman, ACLU Cooperating Attorney

Posted by the National Coalition for the Homeless

Connect Mail Sent: December 22, 1997     5:39 am PST   Item: R010Ldb

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