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The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit against the city of Santa Monica today over the way the city handles its homeless population. The rights organization said the city had violated the constitutional rights of homeless people by “arresting and harassing them even though the city lacks sufficient shelter space for these homeless persons to sleep.”

In a press release, Mark Rosenbaum, legal director of the organization’s southern California office, said it was “not only illegal but callous and inhumane for any city to have its police officers cite, arrest and harass mentally ill or physically disabled homeless persons, even as it fails to provide them with sufficient shelter space.”

In my story about San Diego’s emerging tent cities that ran earlier this week, I wrote about the pressure that many of San Diego’s homeless feel to be constantly on the move.

City municipal code deems it illegal for the homeless to lodge on public property between the hours of 5:30 a.m. and 9 p.m. Police officers patrol the city’s downtown and East Village and issue citations if the homeless haven’t packed up their tents or encampments by 5:30 a.m.

In San Diego, public overnight lodging has only been legal since 2007, when the city settled a lawsuit that challenged its policy of ticketing people who could not access shelters and had no other place to go.

ADRIAN FLORIDO

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