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Jury Sides With City In Anti-Camping Lawsuit

File / Rich Pedroncelli / AP

A homeless person sleeps on a sidewalk in Sacramento, Calif.,Tuesday, April 23, 2013.

File / Rich Pedroncelli / AP

A jury has sided with the city of Sacramento over its anti-camping ordinance. The City Attorney's Office says the city is pleased with the verdict.

Debate over the 1995 law has been going on for years. On one side, homeless advocates say it criminalizes people who are living in poverty. On the other side, city officials say the law is in place to maintain public health standards and ensure public safety.

The plaintiffs’ civil rights attorney Mark Merin says the city is unfairly enforcing its anti-camping ordinance by ticketing people who are homeless, but not people who are camping outside Fairy Tale Town, or a store in order to take advantage of a Black Friday sale. But the jury decided the city was not discriminating against homeless people.

Merin says if the jury had ruled the other way, it could have sparked major changes in Sacramento. He says the city would have had to back off on citing homeless people, and that would have allowed them to gather in parks and be much more visible.

“The visibility of the extent of the problem of homelessness would have forced the city to address it,” Merin said. “They probably would have done what we have been asking them to do and that is designate places where homeless people can be legally.”

He says in spite of the ruling, he will continue to move forward with a case in federal court against the ordinance as a whole.   

One of the plaintiffs in the case is John Kraintz, who was formerly homeless in Sacramento.

"Homelessness is one of the few, maybe the only crime I can think of where they punish the victim," Kraintz said in an interview earlier this year with Capital Public Radio’s Catherine Stifter, who spoke with Kraintz for our podcast series on housing issues in Sacramento.

Hear some of Catherine Stifter's interview with John Kraintz: 

Sally Schilling

Reporter/Podcast Producer

Sally Schilling is a Davis native and a graduate of the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. She has reported on redwood poachers robbing national forests in Humboldt County and the dangers of melting tropical glaciers in the Peruvian Andes.  Read Full Bio 

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