SAN DIEGO (CN) - San Diego's Police Department is "ruthlessly" driving homeless people away from downtown, where they receive help from a church and homeless shelter, by conducting illegal "raids," destroying their property, and telling them to "head for the Arizona border," a class action claims in Federal Court.
The Isaiah Project, a Christian group that helps the homeless by giving them shopping carts for their possessions, called "Born Again Baskets," and nine homeless San Diegans say the city, several of its departments, and the Downtown San Diego Partnership is violating their civil rights.
The homeless people say they left their possessions -including family photos, winter clothes, medications and other necessities - along the street in
downtown San Diego's East Village while they used the bathroom or entered a church or mission, and when they returned they found police officers and city sanitation workers had destroyed their property.
They say they were often made to watch as their possessions were crushed while police officers mocked them.
One class member says he asked a police officer who has just destroyed his possessions, "What am I supposed to do now?"
"You can head for the Arizona border," the officer replied. "I hear Phoenix is nice this time of year."
The class wants the raids stopped and compensation for their losses.
"The city knows that these items are not trash and that they have been placed outside the church or the shelter only temporarily, while their owners are inside seeking necessities such as food and use of the bathroom," the complaint states. "The city also knows that these things belong to homeless people and constitute the entirety of their possessions."
A spokesman for the city's Environmental Services Department, a defendant, told a local weekly that his department had joined with city police for 27 such "abatements," from July 1, 2008 to June 30 this year, and that no one complained about it.
The homeless people and The Isaiah Project are represented by Robert Dreher and by the ACLU Foundation of San Diego and Imperial Counties.
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