Court: TA must treat homeless with dignity

Tel Aviv Municipality cannot clear away possessions left in public spaces after ACRI files petition.

homeless religious man 311 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
homeless religious man 311
(photo credit: 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 Monday.
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 order.
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.
The 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 anyway.
The petitioners also noted that the municipality had not provided a forum for the homeless to get their possessions back.
Ultimately, the 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.
Also, the 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 operations.
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.
Instead, 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 their possessions.