One might reasonably believe with all the passion one can muster that no rational person would choose to be homeless, to live under a freeway overpass, to risk contracting coronavirus and to prefer their own choices to being compelled by the state to live in a shelter. And indeed, many, if not most, would take a roof over their heads.
But would all? Would they want to be marched at the end of a gun if they tell the cop, “Why thank you officer, but I’m fine right here. Have a nice day”? Who represents their interests?
Therefore, to protect the homeless individuals camping near freeway overpasses, underpasses, and ramps—and the general public—the Court hereby ORDERS that these individuals be humanely relocated away from such areas. As part of this humane relocation effort, and to promote the underlying public health and safety goals, the City of Los Angeles and County of Los Angeles shall provide shelter—or alternative housing options, such as safe parking sites, or hotel and motel rooms contracted under Project Roomkey—to individuals experiencing homelessness.
As shelters are established and homeless camps are relocated away from freeway overpasses, underpasses, and ramps, the following criteria, at a minimum, must be satisfied to ensure the process remains humane and serves the best interests of the affected individuals experiencing homelessness.
The injunction issued by Judge David Carter in the Central District of California was, no doubt, done with the best of intentions and the greatest of sensitivity and concern for the welfare of the homeless. Nonetheless, it involves the use of force to compel the homeless to do what the plaintiff, LA Alliance for Human Rights, believes is in their best interests. As B.McLeod noted when he sent this to me:
A survey of these people has not been taken, but an “alliance” has appointed itself to speak for them, assuming that they would and should all want to be forced out of their current living arrangements to public “shelters” (which tend to have rules and other inconveniences disfavored by many homeless).
Beyond the federal court usurping legislative functions in the guise of a “preliminary injunction,” the conduct in this instance appears to be the sort of forced relocation of civilian populations that constitutes a Crime Against Humanity under the Principles of Nuremberg and Article 12 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
Putting aside the Nuremberg reference preferred by those on the cutting edge of tin foil chapeaus. McLeod’s got a point. Had the injunction been limited to requiring Los Angeles County to make shelter space available to all who desired it, it would have been one thing. Even then, the court inserted itself into the nuts and bolts of what the shelter was required to offer.
(1) All shelters and alternative housing options must be configured with adequate physical space to allow the sheltered individuals to maintain the minimum recommended social distance of six feet to mitigate the transmission of SARS-CoV-2.
(2) All shelters and alternative housing options must have adequate hygiene facilities, such as handwashing stations and showers.
(3) All shelters and alternative housing options must have nursing staff who, upon intake, can test each homeless individual for communicable diseases and other health conditions. The Court may consider revising this aspect of the preliminary injunction in the future, depending on the state of the COVID-19 pandemic.
(4) All shelters and alternative housing options must be staffed by security as necessary to ensure the safety of the homeless persons sheltered therein.
Each of these things involves a public expense and a bureaucracy to manage it. With the requirement that there be sufficient social distancing room, it could prove rather difficult to relocate about 7000 people overnight.
It also suffers from the maxim “expressio unius est exclusio alterius.” Must they provide soap and towels, for example? Sheets, blankets and pillows? What hygiene facilities are “adequate”? Had the court left it to the County to figure it out, that would be one thing, but the court included some express conditions for not others. Does that mean they’re not required?
And what of the people who don’t want to be forcibly relocated “for their own good”? Do we pretend they don’t exist? Do they? Who speaks for them? In the world of the well-intended, no reasonable person would refuse a roof over their head to live under a freeway.
(6) Before beginning the process of clearing freeway overpasses, underpasses, and ramps, all homeless individuals living in the vicinity must be given advance notice; such notice shall include information about nearby shelters and alternative housing options.
(7) After such notice is given, and after the City of Los Angeles and/or County of Los Angeles provide adequate alternative shelter for individuals experiencing homelessness living in the vicinity of a freeway, the City of Los Angeles and County of Los Angeles will be allowed to enforce anti-camping laws in the vicinity of freeways to ensure that these individuals are moved to a safer location. (That is, while an individual experiencing homelessness could not be ordered to enter a shelter facility, they could be ordered to relocate an adequate distance away from freeway locations.)
The court’s injunction recognizes that not every homeless person wants to be forcibly moved into a shelter, but rejects the possibility that it’s their choice to live beneath the freeway overpass in favor of “a safer location.” It might strike you as a terrific thing that a court has taken action to help the homeless, even as LA County has not.
But what about those nice folks whose rights and interests differ from the solutions their saviors have decided are better than their own choices? Is the road to hell paved with good intentions?
*Tuesday Talk rules apply.