On Monday the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the ruling of a lower-court that prevents the city of Los Angeles from destroying property left unattended by homeless people. City Attorney Carmen Trutanich has argued that the ban makes it impossible for the city to properly clean streets and sidewalks on Skid Row and therefore creates a public health hazard.
"We have an obligation to the homeless, as well as to the other residents and businesses on Skid Row, to ensure their health through regularly cleaning Skid Row's streets and sidewalks," Trutanich said in a statement when the appeal was originally filed with the Supreme Court. "The current outbreak of tuberculosis among that most vulnerable population should serve as a stern reminder to us all of just who and what is at risk."
The original court ruling does not allow the city to dispose of the contents of shopping carts and cardboard shanties that homeless people leave behind temporarily while going to the bathroom, lining up for food or filling up water jugs.
Attorney Carol Sobel represented the homeless plaintiffs. She said the city intentionally let trash and filth pile up to strengthen its court case and noted that now the streets of Skid Row are being cleaned with “no problem,” The LA Times reported.
"The city could find no evidence of a public health crisis," she said. "The thing they should do is provide housing for the people."
The city is allowed to seize possessions that pose an immediate threat to public health or are evidence of a crime. However if possessions are seized, the city must give owners a chance to reclaim them before they are destroyed.