(CN) – Police raids on homeless camps are unconstitutional, the American Civil Liberties Union of Alaska claims in a class action in Anchorage Superior Court. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of disabled veteran Dale Engel, who says the homeless camp where he lives was raided and his belongings seized or destroyed, including “irreplaceable souvenirs of better times in the life of a homeless person: a letter from a now-dead child or parent, military medals, a photo album from a wedding.”
He says medals he got from serving in the Army and the National Guard were taken in 2006, and that his tent and sleeping bag were taken last spring.
“Taking the sleeping bags and tents from homeless campers … deprives the poorest among us of the few possessions they have,” the complaint says.
Engel says he tried to get the medals and ribbons back, but was told by authorities they were gone.
The lawsuit challenges a change in laws that cut in half the required time to give notice to residents of tent cituies to clear out, giving the homeless only 12 hours to leave a homeless camp before their belongings are seized and destroyed.
At least three camps have been raided since the ordinance was passed last July, the lawsuit states.
“For a homeless person, this inadequate period of notice provides no relief for someone who may not be present during the 12 hours when notice is posted,” the lawsuit states. “It is entirely impossible for notice to be posted in the morning while a homeless campter is away searching for employment, looking for food or attempting to find better shelter during inclement weather.”
Plaintiffs seek an order that notification laws and the raids are unconstitutional.
The lawsuit was filed by Thomas Stenson with the ACLU of Alaska.