A couple who is homeless say they had one tent after the other removed by city crews near Lower Wacker Drive and are now suing the city.
According to the Chicago Tribune report, the pair credit a new state law where the goal is to give the homeless the same property rights as those who have a place to call home.
Living together since 2015, Amie Smith and Shawn Moore allege that police targeted them for a year – forcing them repeatedly forcing them to move from the downtown Chicago spot and directing city crews to throw away the very few personal possessions they had, according to the news outlet. This included eight tents over the course of a year as well as identification and photos of deceased loved ones.
They say, allegedly, the actions violated the 2013 Illinois bill of homeless rights law where the state guarantees homeless people access to public services and the right to “move freely” through public spaces such as sidewalks, parks and public transportation as well as prohibits discrimination based on someone’s living situation, according to the Tribune.
One of the couple’s attorneys representing them said they were “targeted” by the city – by being threatened with arrest if they did not pack up and move and repeatedly deprived of their belongings. According to the news outlet, the attorney argues the actions were discriminatory and violated the couple’s right to privacy in their makeshift home.
An attorney, Kate Schwartz, with Hughes, Socol, Piers, Resnick and Dym, compared the crews allegedly discarding the couple’s tent as well as possessions to the city taking and destroying an illegally parked car, the news outlet reported.
“The fact that you can’t park your car there doesn’t mean that the government can take your car away and never give it back to you,” Schwartz said. “The issue here is not about whether or not they have the right to be putting a tent there, because regardless of whether they do or don’t, the city doesn’t have the right to be taking (the couple’s tent) and destroy it when the reason they’re doing that is they’re motivated to by wanting to get homeless people to just not be in this area.”
A 38-year-old nonprofit, The Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, has filed three such lawsuits invoking the Illinois Bill of Rights for the Homeless Act, according to the Tribune, including one filed on behalf of Smith and Moore in January.
The news outlet reported that attorneys with the coalition claimed they reached a settlement with the city last week on a similar 2016 suit which involved a homeless Chicago man who claimed that his possessions were tossed by city sanitation crews. A spokesman for the city’s Law Department said in a statement Wednesday,“The city of Chicago settled this lawsuit in the best interest of taxpayers.”
“The city does not admit any liability or wrongdoing in this case, but as we do with all settlements, we weighed the anticipated cost to continue the litigation against the cost of the settlement,” spokesman Bill McCaffrey said in an email to the Tribune.
Smith and Moore claim that when the city seized the tents along with their precious items inside – including a photo of Smith’s deceased son – their right to privacy under the homeless act was violated. According to the news outlet, the law does in fact state in part that the homeless have a “reasonable expectation of privacy in his or her personal property to the same extent as personal property in a permanent residence.”