Federal judge weighs order to halt homeless camp sweeps

A federal judge is weighing whether to issue an order barring Fort Wayne from conducting periodic sweeps of the city's homeless camps.

U.S. District Magistrate Judge Susan L. Collins took the request for a preliminary injunction under advisement Thursday after two days of hearings in U.S. District Court in Fort Wayne.

The (Fort Wayne) Journal Gazette reports a homeless man who sued the city in March is seeking the order. Keith See's suit contends that Fort Wayne violates homeless residents' constitutional protections against unlawful search and seizure by destroying tents, coats, blankets and other property seized from the encampments.

See also argues the raids are a denial of the Constitution's Equal Protection Clause, in effect discriminating against the homeless, according to court documents.

See argued in court documents the preliminary injunction was needed to protect him and the city's homeless community from an unlawful policy, and that there are not adequate legal ways to prevent further damage to the homeless until the lawsuit is resolved.

City attorneys argue the actions don't destroy private property, except for items deemed a public health risk.

"The city has an obligation to its citizenry to discard and destroy items that present a risk to the health and safety of its citizens, which includes property in the possession of homeless individuals that may be dangerous and unsanitary," city attorneys argued in court documents.

Attorneys said See's search and seizure claims are invalid because the city gives notice prior to seizure and cleanup and gives individuals an opportunity to reclaim their property for a period of time after the raid.

Court documents say a notice is posted that a "cleanup" is about to take place, and property seized can be reclaimed within 24 hours.

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