Court: TA must treat homeless with dignity
Tel Aviv Municipality cannot clear away possessions left in public spaces after ACRI files petition.
Illustrative photo Photo: Marc Israel Sellem
The Tel Aviv Municipality must treat its homeless with dignity, and cannot clear
and take away their possessions left in public spaces except for very specific
reasons, said Judge Michal Agmon-Gonen of the Tel Aviv District Court on
The petition was filed by the Association for Civil Rights in
Israel to block the municipality from confiscating the possessions and
essentially accused it of trying to push the homeless, a large number of who
happen to be migrants, out of the public space.
In the ruling, the court
said that the municipality’s actions were not proportionate to addressing the
problem at hand.
This was despite the fact that the court did recognize
that the city had an interest and legal right to maintain cleanliness and public
The municipality had claimed that it did not have any policy of
trying to push homeless out of the public space.
Rather, it argued that
it only removed the homeless and their possessions in cases where they presented
a concrete public disturbance or danger, such as a drunkard stumbling around
with a broken bottle of alcohol.
The city also argued that most of the
time that it tried to assist homeless persons in a variety of ways.
petitioners responded that there were many cases where migrants had hidden their
blankets and pillows out of sight during daylight hours so as not to disturb
people walking through the area, only to find that the city confiscated them
The petitioners also noted that the municipality had not provided
a forum for the homeless to get their possessions back.
court found that even accepting part of the municipality’s claims, its
prioritization of its duties to maintain cleanliness and order were overstated
and being implemented incorrectly.
The court ordered the municipality not
to undertake any additional “clearing” operations, despite having some authority
to do so, without a reasonable objective basis for concluding that homeless
possessions posed a clear health threat or an immediate danger.
court ordered the city to draft a set of procedures that ensured that the
dignity and rights of the homeless would not be infringed upon in clearing
People walking through public areas may not enjoy their
leisure time as much because of the presence of some homeless persons and their
possessions, said the court.
However, noted the court, that inconvenience
pales in comparison to treating the homeless with dignity and not make their
living and economic situation even harder than it already is.
those disturbed by the presence of homeless persons or their possessions need to
show more patience and understanding, the court stated.
The petition was
initially filed in October 2011 when the municipality removed the tents
associated with the social protest movement.
According to the
petitioners, the municipality, under the radar, exploited this clearing
operation to remove and harass homeless people, many of who are migrants, and