Attorneys for a group of homeless people and a local church Friday sued the city of Pomona over what they allege is an illegal practice of seizing and destroying the personal property of transients without notice, in violation of federal law.
According to the lawsuit, filed in Los Angeles federal court, Pomona police regularly remove the identification material, benefits cards and prescription medication of the homeless — and once even threw the ashes of a homeless woman’s mother into a garbage truck while she looked on and pleaded in vain for them to stop.
A call for comment left with the Pomona city attorney was not immediately answered. The Pomona City Hall is closed Fridays, according to its website. Repeated calls to the business office of the city’s police department also went unanswered.
“The City of Pomona is breaking the law and endangering its citizens,” said Margaret Morrow, president and CEO of Public Counsel, which represents the plaintiffs.
“In a civilized society, it’s unacceptable for the government to seize and destroy individuals’ personal property for no reason,” she said.
“What makes Pomona’s practices so much worse than those of other local cities is that the property poses no threat whatsoever to the public but is nonetheless destroyed on the spot. There is no justification for taking and destroying someone’s benefits card, life-saving insulin, or personal identification documents.”
Morrow added that the courts have previously determined that such seizures violate the constitutional rights of the homeless.
“The practice, moreover, perpetuates the cycle of homelessness by leaving homeless people, who start off with little, without items they need to survive,” she said.
The suit, filed on behalf of more than a dozen people and the North Towne Christian Church, contends that the seized possessions “pose no health or safety risks to the community” and the practice appears to be part of a “deliberate strategy to expel homeless residents from Pomona, given their frequency, the nature of the items seized, and the openness and hostility with which they are conducted.”
— City News Service
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