Homeless may be reimbursed for property seized in some sweeps

City must reimburse homeless for illegally destroyed property

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Twice on the streets, crews tossed Naomi Mokuahi's belongings in a garbage truck.

"Medication, you know important things, my jewelry," the homeless woman said.

Mokuahi was among scores of homeless targeted as part of the city's policy of "compassionate disruption," which sought to beef up homeless sweeps while also bolstering services.

Now, it appears some of the city's sweeps may have violated people's constitutional rights.

Its the latest fallout of a January ruling, in which a judge said the city needed to change the way it handles homeless sweeps. That ruling led to new rules on property seizures.

After months of litigation, the city paid out $48,500 to 19 people whose property was destroyed in sweeps. Those awards ranged from $1,000 to $2,500.

Now, the city could face more legal fallout.

As a part of the class action lawsuit, the city was ordered to post legal notices informing other homeless and formerly homeless people of their rights. The fliers, printed in seven different languages, went up Wednesday at homeless shelters, social service agencies, and parks.

The notice says some of the city's homeless sweeps may have violated two constitutional rights.

"The Fourth Amendment protects people from unreasonable searches and seizures. The Fourteenth Amendment protects your property from being taken without the due process of the law," explains attorney Nick Kacprowski.

Mokuahi, the homeless woman, said she was interested in reading the flier because it also includes information on how to file a claim for property that was illegally destroyed.

City spokesman Jesse Broder Van Dyke said those who believe their property was unlawfully removed or stored can file a claim with the city. Another option is to file a lawsuit in small claims court.

Kacprowski says anyone with questions about filing a claim should contact the American Civil Liberties Union-Hawaii.

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