SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — A federal judge has granted a temporary restraining order barring a local county from enforcing its no-camping policy and stopping local law enforcement from taking or destroying belongings.
Sutter County must now allow homeless residents who have set up camps along the Feather River and other locations to stay. At least temporarily.
The lawsuit was filed March 9 against Sutter County and Yuba City by 10 homeless people who say the city and county were making them criminals simply for being homeless.
With the increasing numbers of homeless on streets and neighborhoods in Sacramento and across the state, many residents are asking local governments to enforce their no-camping ordinances.
But some counties moving to do that are now facing legal problems. Sutter County has been hit with a lawsuit challenging its no-camping policy. A judge issued a restraining order that says, for now, the county can’t enforce it.
Sacramento legal expert Jeffrey Kravitz says the lawsuit filed against Sutter County and Yuba City was filed because the area doesn’t have a shelter or an alternative place for the homeless to go.
“Essentially they outlawed being homeless,” says Kravitz.
Sutter County officials tell CBS13 the county is not set up to be in the homeless shelter business and does not have funds in its budget to build and operate a homeless shelter. But it says it works with private and non-profit organizations to house area homeless.
Sutter County administrator Scott Mitnick says the county will move forward with its homeless management plan drafted last fall, but it has notified the sheriff not to move the homeless out of the area or confiscate their belongings.
Kravitz says more cities and counties may face lawsuits if they continue down the path of pegging the homeless as criminals, rather than looking at building more shelters or affordable housing.
“How much money does society want to pay criminalizing something, as opposed to trying to find a solution for it?” he said.
The temporary restraining order is in effect until an April 5 hearing. If the judge rules in favor of the homeless, that restraining order against moving them could stay in place until the end of the lawsuit.