ACLU files suit against Honolulu over homeless camp sweeps

ACLU files suit against Honolulu over homeless camp sweeps

Attorneys say they have photos which serve as evidence.  They were taken inside the Kakaako homeless encampment on November 13, 2014.

"Nobody had enough time to get their stuff," said Tabatha Martin.

Tabatha Martin and her 4-year-old daughter are two of 12 plaintiffs who are part of a federal class action lawsuit.  It claims the city's policy of seizing and immediately destroying property during homeless sweeps violates the due process clause of the constitution.

"City workers took our clients' food, medicine, government identification and clothing and destroyed them on the spot.  Simply put the government cannot come up to a person on the street and immediately destroy that persons belongings." said legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union Daniel Gluck.

The ACLU is asking the judge to immediately halt all homeless sweeps.

Martin and her family continue to live in a tent in Kakaako.  For her, anxiety of the impending sweep continues to grow.  
"It's just more heartbreaking to see my daughter and what I got to tell her everyday after.  Mommy what happened to this?  Mommy what happened to that? What do I tell her," said Martin.

Attorneys say more homeless and formerly homeless individuals may join the suit.  Lawyers say the amount of damages, if any will be determined by the court.

City and County of Honolulu Corporation Counsel Donna Leong issued the following statement Wednesday in response to the lawsuit.  It reads:

"The Department of the Corporation Counsel will defend the city in this lawsuit vigorously. In other challenges, federal courts have upheld the constitutionality of the Stored Property and Sidewalk Nuisance Ordinances. The ordinances support the safety, health, and welfare of all residents of the City and County of Honolulu and the city believes the ordinances will survive the current challenge. The city will continue to enforce the Stored Property and Sidewalk Nuisance Ordinances."

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