Friday, December 11, 2009

Claims for damages can now be submitted by homeless citizens for property confiscated by the county

The class-action lawsuit Anthony Lehr, et al. vs. City of Sacramento and Sacramento County, et al., which was tentatively partially settled last August, is now at a stage where homeless people should submit claims if their property was confiscated by county employees subsequent to Aug 2, 2005, and was not returned.

The Lehr lawsuit was filed in federal court in August, 2007, by famed Sacramento attorney Mark Merin on behalf of homeless people whose belongings had been destroyed by city and county officials. The suit claims that these homeless people were denied basic constitutional rights, specifically [quoting Merin from a Bee article] "the 14th Amendment's protection against loss of property without due process and the constitutional right to be heard before it is destroyed." The county has reached a settlement with the plaintiffs; the city and plaintiffs have not reached agreement.

SHOC [Sacramento Homeless Organizing Committee] has been given the responsiblity to administer the processing of forms submitted by claimants for damages.

A Claim Notice and Claim Form, to apply for compensation, are available at the home page of SHOC's new website, "Sacramento Homeless Organizing Committee." [This new webspace exists in addition to SHOC's long-existent Wikispace.]

Homeless people who have had their property confiscated by county police or other county employees are encouraged to submit a claim form. Claims against the City of Sacramento [should an agreement be reached between the city and plaintiffs, or should the plaintiffs win in court] are not being processed at this time. Note that claims against the county can have occured within the city.

Instructions on the form tell us that these are the conditions that must be met to trigger it being appropriate for a person to complete and submit a Claim Form:
At any time during the period from August 2, 2005, to date, while homeless, you lost property as a result of it being removed, confiscated, and/or destroyed by Sacramento County Sheriffs, Sacramento County Park Rangers, or Sacramento County Employees.
According to Paula Lomazzi of SHOC, persons who lost property will receive either $350 or $750, dependent on an evaluation of answers given by claimants on their form. [There has been some confusion about the amount claimants will receive.  The notice, claim form and August Bee article all differ in reporting possible amounts of a claim award.]

A completed claim form must be hand delivered or mailed to SHOC with a latest delivery date or postmark of Feb 18, 2010.

Sacramento Homeless Organizing Committee, though well known to Loaves & Fishes denizens, is a small and rather mysterious organization, judging from their web presence. No staff is identified in either the organization's website or wikispace. A rather long written history of SHOC mentions no person's name. Paula Lomazzi is known to do the work of SHOC, and "paulal" is named as the sole person making changes to SHOC's wikispace.

SHOC is best known for its Homeless Leadership Project which was instrumental in the development of the Safe Ground Campaign (and safe ground everything else, including the T-shirts).

SHOC is also the center of a radical Leftist political philosophy that has swept across Homeless World Sacramento and is at the core of the safe ground movement.  Both Lomazzi and attorney Cathleen "Cat" Williams, who with husband Mark Merin has held fundraisers for SHOC in their home, write for the communist online publication People's Tribune. The "philosophy" that SHOC embraces calls for revolution in America to end capitalism, guarantee jobs for all, and put an end to technological advancement.

In the most-recent issue [Nov. 09] of People's Tribune, Cathleen Williams writes the following,
Never has it been more crucial to strengthen and expand the circulation of the People's Tribune. Leadership is emerging among the people who are "poor in things and rich in spirit"- and they need the news and analysis from the nation, from all the communities which are on the front lines struggling against harsh and brutal economic conditions. ...  The PT points the direction - it orients our leaders with a class perspective we just can't find anywhere else.
Williams also has a poem in the November issue of The PT called "Safe Ground" where she is described as a member of the Revolutionary Poets Brigade.

Per the Bee article last August, Claims Administration will earn a $100,000 fee. This is a large amount for SHOC, an organization that had less than $16,500 in gross income in the year ending Dec 31, 2007 (the most recent financial data available).

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