Federal judge dismisses Ross encampment lawsuit

SANTA CRUZ, Calif. - UPDATED 9/19/19 12:31 p.m.:

Homeless advocates are disappointed after a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit against the City of Santa Cruz over the May decision to close the Ross homeless camp, the largest homeless camp in the city.

"We are a little bit disappointed but we're not surprised. After they closed the Ross camp continuing forward became a little moot," said Alicia Khul, president of the Santa Cruz chapter of the California Homeless Union.

Khul, who filed the lawsuit, said the city's move was unlawful and displaced hundreds of people with no where safe to go, saying that "harm would come to the people at the Ross Camp should they be displaced without adequate shelter.

"We felt like we met the burden of proof on that and that the judge just made a poor decision," Khul said.

But City Attorney Tony Condotti said Santa Cruz did provide homeless with alternate shelter options.

"We present ample evidence of outreach efforts and the assistance that was provided and the court was persuaded by the evidence that we presented. The claim that the city did not provide alternative shelter options is patently false," Condotti said.

Condotti said people were relocated to the River Street encampment and Salvation Army shelters, other people were given hotel vouchers.

But Khul said there are barriers to get into the shelters. And those who are looking for other options are left with none. Many went to Main Beach, but the city closed that door, too.

"Unfortunately, a lot of people who were displaced from ross camp ended up staying on main beach and so that's now caused a curfew which affects everyone," Khul said.

"Unfortunately the city was trying to deal with a difficult situation and has to extend resources in defending litigation that could have used to help with the homeless issues that we have to deal with in Santa Cruz," Condotti said.

The battle doesn't stop here as homeless advocates plan to file another lawsuit. They said people that were displaced feel unsafe and are being threatened.



A U.S. District Court Judge in San Jose has dismissed a Ross encampment lawsuit against the City of Santa Cruz.

Camp representatives argued that the homeless were concerned that once the camp was cleaned up, they would not be allowed back in. They said they were also concerned because the City of Santa Cruz did not choose a permanent location, and scattering the homeless population would expose them to the elements and harassment.

The lawsuit said the city's plans to shut down the Ross camp violates another federal court case out of Idaho, which they believe requires Santa Cruz to provide adequate alternative shelter for the camp's residents before being legally able to evict them. 

In April, a federal judge allowed the city to move forward with plans to clean and vacate the camp located behind the Ross department store off River Street. The site was permanently closed in early May.

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