The city of Pomona has agreed to temporarily halt the practice of seizing and destroying the personal possessions of homeless residents, under a stipulation signed and filed in federal court Wednesday.
Last month, attorneys for a group of homeless people and a local church sued the city of Pomona in Los Angeles federal court over what they allege is an illegal practice of seizing and destroying the personal property of transients without notice, in violation of federal law.
In closed session Monday night, the Pomona City Council agreed to a stipulation which provides that police will not remove any attended property or property left in the custody of another, unless it is contraband or presents a public health risk.
If property is unattended, police will leave a notice, announcing that if authorities return within 48 hours — or within 29 hours in Lincoln and Washington parks — and the property is still unattended, the city may collect it and store it for 90 days; and when police do collect and store unattended property, instructions will be left as to how it may be reclaimed.
“We are encouraged by the city’s swift action in abating this reprehensible practice that has devastated our clients and the homeless residents of Pomona,” said Christina Giorgio, staff attorney of Public Counsel’s Community Development Project.
“Homeless community members now have an enforceable agreement protecting their constitutional rights in their personal property,” she said. “We are hopeful that the city’s prompt response reflects a sincere desire to reach a permanent resolution that keeps our clients secure in their property and helps move them from homelessness to housing.”
According to the lawsuit, 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.
“For now, I’m relieved beyond words that I don’t have to live in fear that all that I have could be taken from me at any time,” said plaintiff Kelley Wilcox, who is homeless.
According to the suit filed on behalf of more than a dozen people and the North Towne Christian Church, the seized possessions “pose no health or safety risks to the community” and the practice appeared 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.”
— Wire reports