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Editorial: Homeless issue still unsettled

You have to wonder what the ACLU really accomplished with its lawsuit against the city, except confusing city officials, police, the community and the homeless themselves.

The settlement agreement that the ACLU and the city hammered out and released last week does nothing to “help" homeless people, except some with citations issued after June 18, 2007, for camping or sleeping on public property. Those citations will be dismissed and expunged, wiping the slate clean for some folks "” until the next time they are cited for the same thing.

This agreement doesn’t provide one new bed or one night of shelter for someone who has no place to go but the streets. It does give the ACLU $9,000 for attorney’s fees "” a pittance in the legal world "” to compensate it for its time and trouble.

Although the agreement states the city cannot enforce the state anti-trespassing law for two years without a 30-day notification to the ACLU, there are many “exceptions."

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One of the exceptions is for public property not owned by the city "” i.e., the schools, county, state, water district and so on.

Another exception is for private property where the owner has not given permission for people to lodge there.

Another exception is for cases where there is a “reasonable" possibility of a public health issue, or harm or injury to people and/or property, from camping at a city-owned site.

Another exception is for “consensual" contact between police and homeless people.

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Another exception is for instances in which police believe that other laws may be violated by a person using public property as a home "” such as the law against drinking alcohol in public.

There may be some instances in which a homeless person can now legally and without fear of the law camp on public property, but he or she would have to be an attorney to figure it all out.

But one thing is crystal clear "” the ACLU will be closely watching how the homeless are treated in Laguna Beach and this settlement won’t stop them from filing another lawsuit if they want to.



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