Former Rothschild tent dwellers petition evacuation

Forcing the homeless to vacate public spaces is illegal, claims rights group.

Rothschild Tents 311 (photo credit: Linda Epstein)
Rothschild Tents 311
(photo credit: Linda Epstein)
Three homeless people filed a petition with the Tel Aviv District Court against the Tel Aviv Municipality and the police on Tuesday, asking for an injunction to prevent the municipality from evicting them from public spaces in the city.
The petitioners claim that municipal inspectors make late-night visits to public places where homeless people congregate to sleep, including Rabin Square and Levinsky Park in south Tel Aviv, in order to confiscate their belongings and forcibly evict them.
The city inspectors have said that homeless people cannot gather together to sleep in public spaces, the petitioners also assert.
The petition, which was filed with the assistance of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, contends that the evictions are illegal, and that the municipality does not have the authority to undertake them.
The petition comes after the municipality evacuated the protest encampment on Rothschild Boulevard just over a week ago.
The three homeless petitioners argue that the city’s homeless population created a supportive community in the Rothschild encampment, but have been left without a place to sleep after it was evacuated.
One of the petitioners, who asked not to be named, is a 43- year-old man who claims to have been on the waiting list for public housing for over 20 years. He claims to have spent last winter sleeping in the Dolphinarium on the city’s beachfront, and then moved to the Rothschild encampment in the summer.
Though those homeless people who spent the summer in the encampment have now been moved on, the petitioners claim that municipal officials and the Green Patrol continue to evict them as they try to sleep in other public spaces.
In evicting the homeless from public spaces, the municipality is trying to push them “out of sight, out of mind,” attorney Gil Gan-Mor, head of the ACRI’s housing rights department, said on Tuesday.
Gan-Mor also accused city hall of trying to “break the spirits of homeless people, and break the cohesion that has grown over the summer among the activist groups that are trying to help them find permanent solutions.”
“Instead of helping [the homeless], the city operates by isolating and removing them, embittering their lives and pushing them to act as every man for himself, so that they will remain out of sight on the margins of the city and society,” he said.
The petition goes further, arguing that forcing vulnerable homeless people to the edges of society exposes them to physical danger.
They point to the fatal alleged beating of homeless Rishon Lezion man, Vladimir Spivak, in September. Police later arrested four men, including two minors, on suspicion of beating Spivak to death.
Ultimately, the municipality’s evictions of homeless people from public spaces were illegal, they assert.
In the petition, Shelo points to the Basic Law on Human Dignity and Liberty, which states that a person’s life, body or dignity must not be violated. A specific legal provision is required to deny a homeless person the freedom to remain in a certain place, or to remove him.
“When city hall orders a homeless person to leave the city’s public squares and gardens, it tramples that person’s freedom, his dignity and his fundamental autonomy,” attorney Nira Shelo of the ACRI said on Tuesday.
“It also gives that person the clear message that he is inferior and a nuisance,” she said.