Earlier this month, the American Civil Liberties Union in Southern California filed a lawsuit on allegations that “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 shelters”. The lawsuit continues:
“In order to spend nights in Orange County shelters for people affected by homelessness, women have had to endure relentless sexual harassment, including highly invasive body searching and voyeurism from employees, as well as uncontrolled groping and lewd 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 complaint, 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, an ACLU advocate, states:
“We haven’t made much progress since the report was published. At the moment, the county has proven incapable of providing for this vulnerable population 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 properties, and as a result, the ACLU, along with the law firm Kirkland & Ellis LLP, claims that “the conditions in the properties violate California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act and constitutional provisions that Protect the freedom of movement and protection against retaliation and invasion of privacy. “In addition, the organization accuses the defendants of 14 specific illegal acts, including negligence, breach of habitability guarantee, illicit spending of public funds, retaliation, battery, sexual battery, invasion of privacy, discrimination and sex harassment, violation of equal protection and due process .
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 by OC
The ACLU lawsuit alleges “uncontrolled fumbling” and other sexual abuse in homeless shelters operated by OC