The city is working to notify homeless people — and formerly homeless people — that their constitutional rights may have been violated as part of the city’s homeless crackdown.
The city is asking homeless shelters and social service agencies to post legal notices for 30 days in seven different languages notifying people that the city may have violated two of their constitutional rights — the Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable seizure of property and the 14th Amendment right against deprivation of property without due process under law — officials said recently.
By order of a federal court judge, the legal notices are also supposed to appear in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.
The notices are the result of a successful class-action lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaii and the Honolulu law firm of Alston Hunt Floyd &Ing on behalf of Tabatha Martin and her family who were among the more than 300 people who lived in the Kakaako homeless encampment in summer 2015.
The suit questioned the city’s tactics in applying its stored property ordinance and its sidewalk nuisance ordinance, both of which the city uses to keep city sidewalks and streets clear of homeless encampments and belongings.
The notices inform people that they have 30 minutes to move their belongings. Even if they’re in a park after closing hours, according to the notices, people “will not be cited, arrested, or otherwise charged for being present in a park after closing hours during that 30-minute period.”
And, other than garbage, motor oil and other specified items, the city cannot throw away possessions, according to the notices.
Instead, the city must store items including tents, clothes and bicycles for 45 days. People who cannot afford to retrieve their property can get their possessions back for free within 45 days, according to the notices.
Nick Kacprowski, an attorney with Alston Hunt Floyd &Ing, said the notices are intended to alert homeless people that “the settlement is going to be approved” by a federal judge.
They’re going up in homeless shelters and social service agencies “because we don’t have the exact addresses of anyone,” Kacprowski said, adding that no one “is entitled to money through this settlement.”
There is a city administrative process to try to get reimbursed for improperly seized possessions, Kac-prowski said. Or homeless people can file a case in small claims court, he said.
“Anyone who is homeless or formerly homeless is part of the class,” Kacprowski said. “It affects their rights, even if they haven’t had their stuff seized.”
The city said the notices are being posted as part of the resolution of the class-action lawsuit.