City Remains Committed to Helping Homeless,
Settles With ACLU
Laguna Beach, CA – The City of Laguna Beach has reached an agreement to settle a 2015 federal class action lawsuit filed by the Americans Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). The agreement, which is subject to approval by the court, reinforces the City’s ongoing commitment to helping area homeless.
The settlement agreement does not provide for any monetary damages or payment of attorneys’ fees to the plaintiffs. Instead, the City is agreeing to continue certain actions it already takes and to take certain additional actions with regard to homeless individuals, particularly with reference to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the operation of the Alternative Sleeping Location (ASL). The settlement will also prevent a multitude of potential future claims against the City.
Since August of 2015, the City has vigorously defended itself against the ACLU’s false claims relating to City programs, services and facilities that benefit homeless individuals. Today, the issues alleged in the initial lawsuit have all but vanished. Among them, the ACLU dropped its demand the City fund, construct and operate permanent supportive housing for disabled homeless persons. In addition, the court dismissed the ACLU’s request for an injunction to prevent Laguna Beach Police from enforcing laws prohibiting lodging and camping on public property.
“We are disappointed the ACLU filed this lawsuit in the first place,” said Laguna Beach City Manager John Pietig. “It was grossly misguided and resulted in years of staff time and substantial financial resources that could have been devoted elsewhere. We are happy to be moving past it.
As part of the agreement, the City and Friendship Shelter, the operator of the ASL, are creating a new enrollment process for local homeless as a pilot program. Those who qualify may be granted a bed at the ASL for a period of up to 30 days, which is expected to improve efforts to secure transitional and permanent housing as well increasing the effectiveness of other case management services.
“About a year ago, we began talking with the City about shifting the way we provide access at the ASL,” said Dawn Price, Friendship Shelter’s Executive Director. “We’re thrilled to have the opportunity to implement this new approach, which facilitates our staff team’s commitment to use data-driven, best-practice, housing-focused shelter strategies.”
Since 2009, Friendship Shelter has graciously operated the current ASL under a contract with the City. As the only year-round emergency shelter program of its kind in southern Orange County, the ASL provides a place for up to 45 people to sleep each night, offering showers, hot meals, clean laundry facilities, sleeping mats, warm blankets and a case worker to connect homeless with services and transportation. On average, it costs the City $290,000 to operate the facility each year. To date, the City has provided over 139,230 bed nights to homeless in need.
“Friendship Shelter continues to defy expectations in serving the needs of local homeless with the limited resources we have,” said City Councilmember Toni Iseman. “From training, mental and physical health, and just being there to listen, they have always made the ASL more than just a place to sleep at night.”
The Laguna Beach Police Department has also helped hundreds of people connect with family and friends and find support, and the City continues to partner with the Homeless Court program to help people resolve outstanding legal issues that may be barriers for future employment.
“For a City of our size, Laguna Beach has made unparalleled efforts to help the homeless population in the area,” said Laguna Beach Mayor Kelly Boyd. “Unfortunately, this is a regional crisis and not one we alone can solve. It is disappointing the ACLU chose to tie up precious resources for a baseless lawsuit that could have been used to do more good. We are glad to put this behind us.”