Lawsuit Critics Seem Uninformed

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I wonder if some who have publicly voiced their opposition to the recently filed ACLU lawsuit have even bothered to read the complaint?  In many cases, the obvious answer is “no.” What other explanation can there be for someone interpreting the suit as an attack on Friendship Shelter or on homeless advocates?

To be clear, the suit is against the City of Laguna Beach on behalf of certain poor, disabled, homeless residents. The complaint summarizes the plaintiffs’ stories and argues that their Constitutional and statutory rights are being violated by the city.

The suit does not require Friendship Shelter to defend itself nor does it impact the Shelter’s resources because no “attack” has been made against it, “mindless” or otherwise. Neither does it disparage the work of the advocates and volunteers who provide hot meals, drive clients to appointments, pay for meds, store possessions and the like. In fact, many of those same advocates, despising the city’s treatment of our most vulnerable citizens, support the lawsuit.

Please, as others have previously urged, read the complaint:

In addition, some seem to have concluded that somehow the lawsuit is a rejection of the rather disquieting idea of Laguna exceptionalism. But, even those knee deep in self congratulations for “all that we do,” must accept that doing “so much” for those lucky chosen ones does not give rise to a right to bar other poor, disabled and homeless residents from sleeping in our town.

Take succor from the fact that we are not alone in dealing with the issues surrounding homelessness.  Search the web to see what services have been made available in other cities and how our neighbors are struggling with similar matters.  And, if helpful, be soothed by the fact that long term, no city is exempt from dealing with homelessness in a legally appropriate fashion.

As to those who complain about perhaps boorish behavior on the part of those they assume to be homeless, take comfort that, should the suit result in permanent supportive housing, those persons whose activities are complained of, will have a place to be besides being in your face.  Of course, in no way would I agree that there is anything comparable between the poor’s right to sleep and the privileged pedestrian’s right not to be approached by a panhandler.

I continue to believe that a public discussion is useful, provided, that we can debate what is actually at stake instead of the usual red herrings.

James Keegan, Laguna Beach


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