Civil rights lawyer allows people who are homeless to camp on his property
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A civil rights attorney in Sacramento, California, is opening up his own property to people who are experiencing homelessness.
Mark Merin, a longtime advocate of converting his land into this type of “safe ground,” recently set up a new tent city for four guests who needed stability, according to FOX40. Although he did not apply for a permit, he told the news outlet “this is the first that this has been installed during a time when the anti-camping ordinance is not being enforced.
“So, therefore, we have some hope that we could survive for a while.”
A panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals at San Francisco held in September 2018 that people who are homeless can’t be prosecuted for sleeping on public property unless alternative shelter is available. The full court decided not to review that decision in April 2019.
The Supreme Court also later declined to hear the case.
In the years before this decision, Merin did run afoul of the Sacramento’s anti-camping ordinance—which prohibited anyone from camping in the same place for more than one night. According to Sacramento Magazine, he allowed 35 people to set up camp on a vacant lot he owned downtown in 2009.
The Sacramento police received complaints and made everyone leave.
Sacramento City Attorney Susana Alcala Wood told FOX40 that she is also considering enforcement in this instance.
“He is aware of the application process, but he declined to follow it,” city attorney Susana Alcala Wood said in a statement provided to the news outlet. “Instead, he informed the city that he would be holding a press conference on his property to announce the opening of his unregulated campground.”
FOX40 reports that four years ago, Merin also said he would open tiny homes on his property for people who needed somewhere to live.
He doesn’t require background checks or drug screenings, and he plans to allow residents to determine their own shower schedules and other issues, FOX40 reported.
“I’d say we have to prove through operation that it will be a success,” Merin told the news outlet.