Lawsuit over ticketing of homeless people costs city of SLO $139,000

newsroom@thetribunenews.comNovember 6, 2012 

San Luis Obispo has spent just under $140,000 to settle a lawsuit with the SLO Homeless Alliance, said Christine Dietrick, city attorney.

Some additional costs could be incurred, but those should be minimal, she said.

The alliance sued the city over its ticketing of homeless individuals, alleging the practice is unconstitutional.

Some groups, including the San Luis Obispo Downtown Association, have criticized the lawsuit, saying it is diverting money that could be used to solve the homeless problem.

The issue came to a head in August, when the City Council voted to back a settlement brought after the city was sued by several attorneys who represented the Homeless Alliance.

As of Aug. 11, 88 citations had been issued to people sleeping in vehicles. Those citations were dismissed in the settlement.

Attorney Stewart Jenkins argued that the settlement served “our clients, the most vulnerable citizens of San Luis Obispo — and all the citizens of San Luis Obispo — by making sure our neighbors are treated like human beings.”

The City Council revised its ordinance in September. The new measure makes sleeping in a vehicle equivalent to a parking citation, not a criminal offense.

But Jenkins said the new measure is much like the former one, and he may challenge it as well.

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