by Max Johnson
A settlement in the lawsuit Clements vs. City of Cleveland, which was scheduled to go to trial on February 18 in United States District Court is complete. In the growing criminalization of poverty, this is a rare victory. Brian Davis, Director of the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless, hailed this settlement as permanently stopping a policy of forcibly picking up homeless people against their will. He said, “I think this lawsuit and the settlement will force police and city officials from examining their interaction with the homeless of Cleveland.”
Participants in the so-called dumping or kidnapping case alleged that the City of Cleveland police department officers were ordered to “pick-up” and “deliver” them to remote locations. Plaintiffs filed the lawsuit because they were being picked up against their will by the police and dumped. It was the contention of the plaintiffs that this was an attempt to clean up certain high traffic areas, and to sweep poverty out of the sight of visitors to the Downtown business district. With the prospect of the Mayor of Cleveland having to testify about his involvement in creating the policy, and a credible law student who was going to testify that she witnessed the dumping, the City’s attorneys decided to settle the lawsuit.
The City of Cleveland originally demanded that the specifics of the settlement be kept confidential, but because of pressure from the media the specifics were released. The settlement does not punish the city for engaging in such an assault on the rights of the homeless of Cleveland, but it does prevent such a policy from ever being implemented again.
The settlement includes:
**$9,000 for the Coalition to pass completely on to the three plaintiffs for education, job training or housing.
**A public statement from the city stating that activity involving violating homeless people’s right to move around downtown will never be policy in Cleveland.
**A directive to the police stating that they cannot pick up homeless people against their will and deliver them to services.
**The City will pay the costs associated with this lawsuit that the ACLU has incurred.
**The Coalition had asked as part of the settlement that the City make some act of contrition to all those homeless people that were dumped, but who were not named in the suit. This was rejected by the City. The Coalition for the Homeless will remain vigilant in the monitoring of the civil rights of the homeless members of our city.
By mid March, the three plaintiffs and NEOCH had yet to receive the settlement funds.
Copyright NEOCH and the Homeless Grapevine published March 1997-April 1997 Issue 20