Thursday, June 26, 2014

They Can Live In Their Cars

MIn 1983 The 9th Circuit court in Los Angelos, California  passed a law making it illegal for the homeless to live in their vehicles. But this law was not enforced  until 2010 with a 21-officer task force when Venice residents started complaining about waste and trash on the streets. 
In January, a group of Venetians finally dropped a years long battle to kick cars and RVs off the streets overnight. The ban forbid anyone from using a vehicle "as living quarters either overnight, day-by-day, or otherwise," and officers all had different interpretations of exactly what that meant, so enforcement was very selective about whom she fined or chased off the street. Officers were arresting people just for having stuff in their car and even when they were parked in private parking lots. One of the four homeless people who sued to overturn a lower court's decision upholding the ban had been pulled over in her RV for failing to use a turn signal but was cited instead for living in the vehicle.

As one Ninth Circuit judge wrote, "[the ordinance] is broad enough to cover any driver in Los Angeles who eats food or transports personal belongings in his or her vehicle. Yet it appears to be applied only to the homeless." That of course makes it potentially discriminatory and unconstitutional. The judge then concluded that the ban "criminalizes innocent behavior." 

Nobody chooses to be homeless. Most of these people have been driven to the bottom by life, and some have been forced to take up residence in their vehicles because it is the only shelter that they have. There are many who never thought they would find themselves in such dire straights, and others who live to do nothing more than exist and survive. The thing that they both have in common is the fact that, they don't deserve to be kicked while they're down.


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