Nine homeless people who have been cited for illegal sleeping in public have filed a class-action lawsuit in San Diego federal court, says the Christian Science Monitor. They say the San Diego Police Department has violated their constitutional rights by ticketing them for sleeping in public. “People wouldn’t be sleeping outside if there were any shelter beds,” says Larry Milligan, an activist for the homeless. “They are being persecuted for their status, for being homeless, not for committing a crime, and that violates their civil rights.
San Diego has issued more tickets for homelessness in the past two years than in the previous five combined. Other cities, including Los Angeles, San Francisco, Dallas, Milwaukee, and several in Florida have issued such citations in the past few years. The tickets are a gesture that some have criticized as meaningless, pointing out that the homeless are often impoverished, and that as they have no permanent address, any effort to collect fines would most likely prove either difficult or impossible. The lawsuit the first constitutional challenge of such ticketing. A ruling in favor of the homeless could have national importance, says Tulian Ozdeger of the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty.