Akron Settles a Lawsuit Over Handling Homeless Citizens' Belongings

Sep 15, 2016

Attorneys for the homeless people -- who said their belongings were seized and destroyed -- say they do not believe Akron is trying to criminalize homelessness.
Credit WKSU

The City of Akron is modifying the way it treats the belongings of homeless people, following settlement of a federal lawsuit.

The suit was brought two years ago on behalf of 11 homeless people who said their belongings had been seized from public property and destroyed.

Becky Sremack was co-counsel on the case and says the settlement -- along with Akron’s recent repeal of a requirement that panhandlers register with the city – shows that Akron is not trying to criminalize homelessness.

"The issue, of course, is housing. It makes no sense to try to punish people for simply trying to go about their life. So we're hopeful, actually, that there has been a signal here that the City of Akron is more willing to address these issues."

Case Western Reserve University School of Law professor Avidan Cover was co-counsel on the case, and says his clients are pleased that the city will be paying damages as part of the settlement.

“Invariably our clients did suffer emotionally. And many of them they lost priceless items – whether they were family photographs that can never be replaced [or] various other documents – and just the trauma of, in essence, losing their home was incredibly difficult for them. So we hope that this is some element of restoration [and] a sense of security and dignity.”

The settlement also requires the city to give 48 hours written notice before removing belongings from public property, and to store those belongings for 30 days.