Earlier this month, the American Civil Liberties Union in Southern California filed a lawsuit alleging “sexual abuse, overcrowding and unhealthy conditions are widespread in three Orange County homeless shelters.” It is further alleged that the dire conditions have not improved since the organization “released a damning 2019 report on the county’s emergency shelters.” The lawsuit continues:
“To spend nights in Orange County shelters for people with homelessness, women had to endure relentless sexual harassment, including highly invasive body searching and voyeurism from staff, and uncontrolled groping and indecent suggestions.”
Orange County Courthouse; Image courtesy of Ebyabe via Wikimedia Commons, https://commons.wikimedia.org/
The lawsuit was filed in the Orange County Superior Court and represents 11 shelter residents. According to the lawsuit, the residents were allegedly exposed to “sexual abuse, rampant rodent and bedbug infestations, broken toilets and showers and extreme temperatures in the animal shelters”. In addition to the naming of Orange County as a defendant, the city of Anaheim, the Illumination Foundation, the Midnight Mission and the Mercy House Living Centers & Protection America are also mentioned.
The suit states that the Illumination Foundation is the operator of La Mesa, an Anaheim-funded animal shelter. The lawsuit continues: “Mercy House operates bridges on Kraemer Place in Anaheim and Midnight Mission operates the Courtyard, which has more than 400 beds in a former transit center near the Santa Ana Civic Center.”
According to a 2019 report published by the ACLU, there were problems “in Bridges and the Courtyard and in a women’s shelter called SAFEPlace”. The report by Eve Garrow, a supporter of the ACLU, states:
“We have not made much progress since the report was published. The county has shown itself to be incapable of serving these vulnerable populations in a way that respects their rights and the dignity they deserve. “
It’s important to note that SAFEPlace is excluded from the recent lawsuit as it has made significant improvements since the 2019 report. This is not the case with the other shelters, which is why the ACLU, along with the law firm Kirkland & Ellis LLP, claims that “the conditions in the shelters violate California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act and state constitutional requirements Protect the freedom of movement and protection against retaliation and invasion of privacy. “In addition, the organization accuses the defendants 14 of specific illegal acts, including negligence, violation of the habitability guarantee, illicit spending of public funds, retaliation, battery, sexual battery, invasion of privacy, discrimination and harassment based on sex, violation of equal protection and proper Procedure.
Garrow said, “We are looking for resources sufficient to meet the needs of this vulnerable population, as well as greater control and accountability.”
One lawsuit alleges “uncontrolled fumbling” and other sexual abuse in homeless shelters operated by OC
The ACLU lawsuit alleges “uncontrolled fumbling” and other sexual abuse in homeless shelters operated by OC