On Wednesday, October 4, Federal Judge Ricardo Martinez denied class certification and a preliminary injunction sought in a lawsuit The Episcopal Diocese of Olympia joined earlier this year with the ACLU, Real Change, Trinity Episcopal Church and several unhoused individuals against the City of Seattle and the Washington State Department of Transportation. The case alleges that the city and Department violate the constitutional rights of people living outside by seizing and often throwing away their property without adequate notice or providing a meaningful way for individuals to reclaim any property that was not immediately destroyed.
Bishop Greg Rickel responded to the judge’s ruling: “I am extremely dismayed by the ruling from Judge Martinez. Unhoused persons living in Seattle continue to have their rights violated and continue to be pushed further and further to the margins without adequate help or assistance. For a city that takes pride in its progressive ideals, we can and must do better.
“Entering into a lawsuit is not an action that I take lightly, but I believe this was the only course of action to take. When we first joined in this lawsuit, I said how deeply appalled I was by the actions that my city has engaged in against the most vulnerable in our community. The unlawful seizure and destruction of the homeless’ property is cruel and unjust.
“As Seattle’s economy grows and the housing market skyrockets, more and more of our citizens are being priced out of their homes and many have nowhere to go. We have a dire crisis on our hands, but attempting to make those who suffer from homelessness invisible is not a solution.
“In the past two years, there have been over 1,000 instances of these unlawful seizures. The suit seeks to prevent local government from subjecting this vulnerable population to the loss of belongings critical to their survival and well-being, including tents, sleeping bags, personal identification, and life-saving medications.
“Christ has called us to minister to the most vulnerable among us. This is an essential part of our ministry. Unhoused people are part of our community and it is our responsibility to treat them with dignity. Our public officials must respect the rights of all people and not pursue policies that treat homeless persons and their belongings as dispensable.”