Homeless Sue the City of Sacramento Over Possessions Lost in Camp Sweeps

Garbage bag after garbage bag headed to the dump. Is it trash? Or are the bags filled with the possessions of the homeless?

"We had another camp over there, they tore it down. Took it away. Where'd it go?" said one homeless man during a recent police sweep that cleared out his camp.

As the Sacramento area grapples with how to handle its homeless population, the city and county face a lawsuit over how they handle the homeless population's belongings.

"The City's defense at this point is that they didn't take property... they took trash," said Mark Merin, an attorney representing dozens of homeless and formerly homeless people in a federal suit against the City of Sacramento.

It was daunting enough a claim that Sacramento County settled out of court. The county paid $500,000 for how it handled what was left behind when they cleared homeless camps like this one.

But the City of Sacramento is making no apologies.

"Those few number of people who were impacted by clean ups that the City did, received notice in so many respects. Notice by way of written warnings. Notice from other campers. Notice from the police," said Chance Trimm, the attorney representing the City of Sacramento.

The battle is over these garbage bags, and how a jury will view what's inside. Was this stuff left, or was it lost?

"I lost ID, I lost medication, I lost children's pictures, I lost my home," said Linda McKinley, a formerly homeless woman who is part of the suit.

But the City says they make every effort to keep anything valuable.

"We would never throw anything like that away intentionally," Trimm said.

Safe-Ground has been fighting for a designated homeless campground, where dispossessed people would police themselves. But attorney Mark Merin insists this law suit isn't another tactic in that effort.

He says it's just about the stuff.

"The same way your property would be returned to you if you left your microphone or your camera behind by accident," Merin told us.

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