Letters from the Law Center

A collection of letters sent or signed onto by the Law Center to support our advocacy and legal work.

Letter to the Mayor and Councilmembers of Medford, OR (2020)

This letter expresses the Law Center’s concerns regarding the city of Medford’s clearance of the homeless encampments in Hawthorne Park and the Greenway. This approach is contrary to CDC guidance and likely unconstitutional according to the precedent set in Martin v. Boise, and recently reaffirmed in Blake v. Grants Pass. We call on the city to immediately cease evictions of homeless encampments and instead put its resources to getting people into housing.

Letter to the Mayor of Salt Lake City, UT (2020)

This letter addresses the Law Center’s concerns about Salt Lake City’s continued encampment sweeps during the COVID-19 pandemic. We urge the city to adhere to CDC guidance and immediately stop conducting sweeps of homeless encampments until the city can offer individual housing units to people experiencing homelessness. The Law Center also encourages Salt Lake City to place an immediate moratorium on enforcement of laws or policies criminalizing homelessness, such as laws against camping, sleeping, panhandling, or sleeping in one’s vehicle.

Letter to the Mayor and Councilmembers of Auburn, WA (2020)

This letter addresses the Law Center’s concerns about the City of Auburn’s Proposed Ordinance which prohibits erecting or maintaining a tent in any city park and subjects a person to “arrest and prosecution for criminal trespass” for simply “entering or remaining in a park when it is closed.” We urge the Council to vote against these amendments which criminalize involuntary homelessness and instead to repeal the ordinance.

Joint Letter to the Mayor and Councilmembers of Boulder, CO (2020)

This letter, written jointly with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Boulder County Branch, expresses the Law Center’s concerns about Boulder’s camping ban and prohibition on using vehicles as dwelling places during COVID-19. We urge the city to adhere to CDC guidance and consider repealing or placing a moratorium on encampment clearings until the city can offer individual housing units to people experiencing homelessness.

Letter to the Mayor and Councilmembers of Austin, TX (2020)

This letter expresses the Law Center’s support for the Fair Chance Housing Resolution and urges the City of Austin to approve this important step toward ending and preventing homelessness. The Fair Chance Housing Resolution will not only remove unnecessary barriers to housing access, but it will also help to promote racial equity and reduce homelessness in Austin.

Joint Letter to the Mayor, City Councilmembers, and Public Health Departments of Detroit, MI (2020)

This letter, written jointly with the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan (ACLU), Street Democracy, and our partner signatories, expresses the Law Center’s concerns about Detroit’s harmful sweeps during COVID-19. The letter was initiated by local medical students doing street medicine who observed the sweeps. We urged the City to cease all homeless encampment evictions during the COVID-19 pandemic immediately and asked that they adopt a policy that protects unsheltered people and their property.

Joint Letter to the City Council of Honolulu, HI (2020)

This letter, written and signed by 35 legal scholars, is in response to the latest proposed expansion of Honolulu’s criminal prohibition on sleeping or lying in public places. For years now, the city has effectively chased people with new and wider bans, and it is doing so again with the latest proposal. Enforcing such bans against people without access to shelter is cruel and unusual punishment, and the Constitution forbids it.

Joint Letter to the Mayor of San Francisco, CA (2020)

This letter, written jointly with Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area, ACLU-Northern California, and the Public Interest Law Project, is on behalf of the Coalition on Homelessness San Francisco to demand the City and County of San Francisco’s compliance with recent local legislation requiring the procurement of hotel and motel rooms for unhoused people as a critical public health response to the COVID-19 pandemic and with Welfare and Institutions Code section 17000.

Joint Letter to the Board of Supervisors of Sacramento County, CA (2020)

This letter, written jointly with Disability Rights California and ACLU-Northern California, expresses the Law Center’s concerns about the refusal of the City of Sacramento and the County of Sacramento to provide emergency services to, and refrain from the criminalization of, people experiencing homelessness. We urge the City and the County to adhere to CDC guidance—and its own Plan—which includes a variety of measures that will serve the needs of people experiencing homelessness and reduce the further spread of coronavirus.

Joint Letter to the Mayor, Vice Mayor, and City Council of Sacramento, CA (2020)

This letter, written jointly with Disability Rights California, Legal Services of Northern California, and ACLU-Northern California, expresses the Law Center’s concerns about the refusal of the City of Sacramento to provide emergency services to, and refrain from the criminalization of, people experiencing homelessness. We urge the City to adhere to CDC guidance—and its own Plan—which includes a variety of measures that will serve the needs of people experiencing homelessness and reduce the further spread of coronavirus.

Letter to the Mayor and Councilmembers of Denver, CO (2020)

The Law Center urges Mayor Hancock and Councilmembers not to displace people living outside in the City of Denver unless the people living in those locations are offered accessible individual housing units, such as hotel rooms, consistent with CDC Guidance. We also urge the City of Denver to issue a formal policy to leave intact homeless encampments that do not pose immediate public health or safety risks throughout the COVID-19 State of Emergency because such a policy can protect the lives and safety of all Denver residents.

Letter to the Mayor and City Councillors of Topeka, KS (2019)

This letter expresses the Law Center’s concerns with the city’s  proposed camping ordinance, and suggests more constructive policies to implement in its place. The Law Center has offered assistance in seeing these alternatives put forward.

Joint Letter to the Mayor and City Council of Santa Cruz, CA (2019)

This letter, written jointly with Disability Rights California and the ACLU of California, expresses the Law Center’s concerns with the city’s  proposed camping ordinance, and suggests more constructive policies to implement in its place. Rather than the proposed policy of amending ordinances to justify the citation and arrest of homeless individuals, the letter urge the Council to undertake a considered, thoughtful analysis of homelessness and the barriers that people experiencing homelessness face when attempting to access services.

Letter to the Mayor and City Councillors of Marysville, CA (2019)

This letter expresses the Law Center’s concerns with the city’s  proposed camping ordinance. It urges the addressed officials to vote no on the proposed ordinance. The Law Center has offered assistance in implementing constructive policies in its place.

Letter to the City of Wausau, WI (2019)

The Law Center submitted a letter opposing a proposed ordinance in Wausau, WI that would make it illegal to be in a parking lot or garage for any longer than necessary to park a car. Based on comments from the Office of the City Attorney, the ordinance seems motivated in part by complaints about people sleeping in ramp stairwells. As with other ordinances that criminalize the lives of people experiencing homelessness in one way or another, the ordinance  fails to address where these people will be able to seek shelter if not in the targeted parking lots and vehicles. The lack of plan or requirement to house or adequately shelter the displaced persons means they are merely dispersed to different public spaces. Given this, the Law Center has urged city officials to oppose or amend the ordinance to better serve the needs of all members of the Wausau community.

Letter to the Mayor and City Council of Las Vegas, NV (2019)

In this letter, the Law Center raises concerns with a proposed bill to prohibit camping and similar activities on public property. The bill, were it to pass, would greatly limit the ability of people experiencing homelessness to rest in light of a lack of alternatives. The letter references our reports and past litigation to point out the inefficiency and cruelty of criminalizing homelessness as with a camping ban. It also provides suggestions to pursue for constructive, non-criminalizing alternatives.

Letter to the Mayor and City Council of Austin, TX (2019)

This letter from the Law Center urges the City of Austin to continue their course in decriminalizing homelessness, and not to bow to outside pressure to revise their ordinances to add the criminalization of homelessness into the city’s laws. The letter reminds the city of the non-punitive measures available to them, and the other law enforcement tools available to address legitimate public safety and health concerns. Further, it encourages the city to pursue the constructive alternative of the Homelessness Action Plan already being developed locally as of the time of the letter’s writing.

Public Comment to HUD, re: Mixed Status Rulemaking (2019)

This comment voices our strong opposition to changes regarding the eligibility of families for financial assistance. This comment raises concerns not addressed by HUD that the proposed rule will increase homelessness and inflict the costs of housing instability on eligible families and on society as a whole.  The proposed rule would result in many eligible individuals losing their housing and being exposed to housing instability and potential homeless. The rule will also exacerbate the existing crisis of a lack of affordable housing and result in fewer families being able to receive assistance, and would reduce the quantity and quality of assistance available for others. The effects would stretch beyond just immigrant families, as the resulting increase in housing instability and homelessness will result in greater costs to U.S. citizen families and their communities than it currently costs HUD to keep families stably housed and work toward self-sufficiency through these programs.

Letter to Montgomery, AL Mayor re: Panhandling Ordinance (2019)

The Law Center wrote this letter to urge the Mayor of Montgomery, AL to not sign an ordinance which prohibits panhandling in the City of Montgomery.  Since the landmark Reed v. Gilbert case in 2015, every panhandling ordinance challenged in federal court—at 25 of 25 to date—including many with features similar to the ones in Montgomery, has been found constitutionally deficient.  At least 31 additional cities have repealed their panhandling ordinances when informed of the likely infringement on First Amendment rights.  The City’s ordinance not only almost certainly violates the constitutional right to free speech protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, it is also bad policy, and numerous examples of better alternatives now exist which the City could draw on. We recommend the mayor and the city council to reconsider the ordinance and instead consider more constructive alternatives or risk potential litigation.

Letter to the Volusia County, FL Council re: First Step Shelter (2017)

This letter to the Volusia County Council opposes the proposal recommended by Dr. Robert Marbut to construct a low-barrier shelter for the purposes of forcing homeless persons to “choose” between a shelter with an outdated approach to homelessness or going to jail. We commend the county on its willingness to commit funds to ending homelessness, but they could be much better expended following federal policy and national best practices which emphasize a Housing First approach in conjunction with not promoting the criminalization of homelessness. Following the letter, the county postponed its vote on the proposal.
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