Ruling denies San Francisco's request to ease encampment removal ban

A three-judge panel of the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday denied the San Francisco’s request to modify a lower court’s injunction preventing the city from clearing most homeless tent camps. 

In December, a judge temporarily barred the city from encampment sweeps if it didn't have a housing option for the unhoused.

The injunction came after the Coalition on Homelessness filed a lawsuit in September 2022 on behalf of seven unhoused people alleging that the city violates state and federal laws by clearing tents and seizing belongings despite lacking enough shelter for those living in encampments. 

This has limited the city’s ability to clear encampments. 

City attorneys argued that San Francisco has taken extraordinary steps to house the unsheltered and that many of the homeless refuse housing when offered. 

The city says that the offer of housing is enough to fulfill the obligation to provide housing, so the injunction should be lifted. 

"This injunction, this lawsuit by the Coalition on Homelessness has had a very negative impact on the streets of San Francisco," said San Francisco City Attorney David Chiu. "You go, you only look outside the windows of the Ninth Circuit courthouse to see what the impact has been."

Advocates for homeless residents argue the city should stop forcing homeless people to move their belongings and tents until there are thousands more shelter beds available.

The court says it will address all other issues raised "in due course."