City Denies Homeless Charges

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The City of Boise has filed a response to the seven homeless people who sued last month, asserting that camping arrests did not violate their civil rights.

The lawsuit charges the city and the police department, which city attorneys claim is immune from litigation, with civil rights violations for arresting people for public camping when they have no other place to sleep. In the 10-page response, assistant city attorney Scott Muir denies any wrongdoing or constitutional violations by the Boise Police Department and details some of the arrests cited by the plaintiffs.

Muir said the merits of the lawsuit would be argued in further motions, after discovery begins.

In the lawsuit, the seven homeless plaintiffs detail their arrests and the costs—both cash money and to their chances for pulling themselves out of homelessness.

9. Plaintiff CRAIG FOX is a homeless Boise resident. He moved to the Boise area
three years ago to help his elderly mother who lived in Meridian. He became homeless several
months ago after he lost his job at a convenience store. He has had difficulty obtaining
employment because of the economy and because he has severe arthritis in his hip, which limits
his mobility. He has explored the possibility of housing assistance, but Boise currently has a six-
month waitlist for any form of housing assistance. In May 2009, Fox received a disorderly
conduct citation for sleeping in Ann Morrison Park in Boise. During the afternoon, while he was
waiting for the Sanctuary shelter to open, he laid down on a bench in the park. A Boise police
officer woke him up and issued a disorderly conduct citation. The officer explained to Fox that it
is illegal to sleep on a bench within the Boise city limits and that he could only lie on the grass.
Fox was convicted of disorderly conduct and served two days incarceration. Fox worries that
having this conviction on his record will make it more difficult for him to find employment,
housing, and benefits. He also fears that he will receive additional citations and fines that he
cannot afford to pay. Fox tries to keep moving, to the extent that his arthritis allows him to, in an
effort to avoid being noticed by Boise police officers. When he stops in any one place, he tries
to remain hidden.

Similar data is provided for each plaintiff. The city acknowledges the arrests, in each case, but puts its own spin on the facts, by providing more details from the casefiles:

Answering paragraph 9 of Plaintiffs' Complaint, Defendants admit that Plaintiff Craig Fox was cited on May 12, 2009, for Disorderly Conduct. When Plaintiff Fox failed to appear on the charge, a warrant was issued. Plaintiff Fox was arrested on the warrant, booked into the Ada County Jail, and appeared in court, all on August 28, 2009. At that time he was appointed a public defender, pled guilty to the charges of Disorderly Conduct and Failing to Appear, and received a sentence of 2 days jail, with 2 days credit. Defendants deny the remainder of paragraph 9 for lack of information, knowledge, or belief.