Lawsuit accuses Washington, D.C. of destroying personal belongings of the homeless


Lawsuit accuses Washington, D.C. of destroying personal belongings of the homeless

Harvey Simpkins

9 April 2018

On March 28, a class action lawsuit was filed in US District Court for the District of Columbia challenging the D.C. government’s practice of throwing out the personal belongings of the homeless. The lawsuit asserts that the city is violating the 4th Amendment’s protections against unreasonable searches and seizures, as well as ignoring the city’s own protocol requiring that possessions confiscated during the clearing of homeless encampments be stored for up to 60 days.

Specifically, the lawsuit states that the city “has followed a consistent practice of destroying unattended belongings whenever the owner is absent for some or all of a clearing,” including “tents and other shelters, bicycles, blankets, clothing, identification documents, medications, Social Security cards, medical and court records, family photographs, letters, and other personal belongings.”

Such actions put the homeless “in grave danger of suffering irreparable harm through loss of personal property that is necessary for survival or that cannot be replaced,” the suit states. As a remedy, the two named plaintiffs, Shanel Proctor and Charlaine Braxton, are seeking a permanent injunction against the District to prevent further destruction of homeless people’s possessions.

Proctor and Braxton allege in the lawsuit that their tents, mattresses, food, clothing, electronics, and identity documents were either lost or destroyed during numerous city-led clearings of their encampment in 2016 and 2017, a fate suffered by other homeless residents living there. The lawsuit also asserts that since November 2016, D.C. has conducted approximately 70 encampment clearings.

In a declaration…

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