A federal judge ruled Tuesday that the City of Seattle and state transportation officials can continue their practice of sweeping out homeless camps and removing people's belongings.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Washington has sued over the practice. The group asked for a temporary ban on seizures of people's property while the lawsuit goes forward.
But Tuesday, U.S. District Court Judge Ricardo S. Martinez denied that request. Martinez wrote that the ACLU failed to prove that the homeless sweeps practice would cause irreparable harm.
Even with the temporary request denied, the lawsuit will continue to move forward.
Doug Honig is a spokesperson with the ACLU in Seattle. He says they are disappointed that crews will be able to keep removing personal belongings from homeless camps in the near term.
Honig: “The reasons that the lawsuit was filed, which is destruction of people’s property, is still happening. We would have liked to see immediate action, but the lawsuit is still very much alive and going forward.”
The ACLU filed the suit on behalf of two women who say belongings, including sleeping bags and tools, were thrown away without adequate notice.
In court, the city and the state transportation department defended their process of clearing homeless camps.
In a statement after the judge’s ruling, Mayor Ed Murray said, “The City of Seattle appreciates the Court’s careful consideration and will continue to move forward with reforms that ensure cleanups of unauthorized encampments occur with compassion toward residents, including increased outreach and the return of stored belongings.”
The city is working to adopt new protocols for how crews close down homeless camps. The changes will require the city to improve storage of personal belongings that are removed during sweeps.