San Francisco hit with lawsuit from homeless advocates

The Coalition on Homelessness has filed a lawsuit alleging that San Francisco has violated the civil rights of the city's homeless.

The suit says the city has violated its own laws and betrayed the city's most vulnerable. The complaint alleges the city has threatened homeless people with citations even when the city didn't have shelter space available for them. Advocates say that put homeless people at risk of further harm through its policies, like illegally seizing the belongings of homeless people.

"We see mass property destruction, where the city's coming in, taking people's survival belongings, their tents, their blankets we see MacBook Pros, we see cellphones taken, and then they're not being offered any services, they're just being ordered out of the area," said Zal Shroff from Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights.

Attorneys from the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights say the suit has already been filed in federal court and the city has being put on notice.

For its part, the San Francisco City Attorney's Office released a statement that read in part, "the city is acutely focused on expanding our temporary shelter and permanent housing options to alleviate our homelessness crisis."

Couper Orona says she spent years unhoused in San Francisco and witnessed firsthand the treatment of some homeless by the city's police and public works crews.

"When these sweeps happen they come in and they're just so disrespectful, so cruel, like they have no heart," said Orona. "They're taking people's last little bit that they have left on this Earth, you know, and throwing it in the trash."

The suit could take months to years for this case to resolve, but for now, attorneys for the city's homeless are asking for an end to sweeps of homeless encampments. Ultimately they say they want more affordable housing available for all, and oversight on how the city treats its unhoused population.