Washington city faces lawsuit over homeless encampment clearing

Washington state workers were acting unconstitutionally when they seized belongings and medical records of those living in homeless camps, a lawsuit filed earlier this month claims.

Puyallup workers bulldozed property in 2016 and 2017 without notice, according to the lawsuit. The suit states the city discarded the property they seized, The News Tribune reported Friday. The suit was filed Sept. 14 and seeks unspecified damages.

“Here, we believe that the city and county have violated the rights of people living without housing in Puyallup,” said attorney Tristia Bauman, who works for the National Law Center on Homelessness & Property and represents one of the six plaintiffs.

The City of Puyallup and Pierce County defended their actions, saying they gave those in the encampment plenty of time to leave and they “prioritize health and safety for all citizens in our community.”

“When it is necessary to conduct a homeless encampment clean-up due to the clear presence of dangerous and unhealthy conditions, all affected persons are given ample notice and sufficient time to collect and remove their belongings,” Puyallup officials said in a statement. “They are also referred to resources and services which can assist them if they choose to accept such services.”

Nancy Boyle, 57, and Glenn Humphreys, 54, are among those suing Puyallup. They claim they left their camp to stay in a shelter when temperatures got colder and when they returned they found a three-day notice to leave their camp, according to The News Tribune. The following day, police told them they had three minutes to leave.

The city workers allegedly tossed things like Humphreys’ tools, documents he needed to get Veteran’s Administration services, his Social Security ID card, Boyle’s German birth certificate and naturalization papers, according to The News Tribune.

Jerome Connolly, 34; Christian Rainey, 51; Nicki Wedgeworth, 50; and Terry Linblade 55 were also listed as plaintiffs in the lawsuit and shared similar experiences.

Connolly and Rainey claim they had their medicine destroyed, while Wedgeworth and Lindblade had family photos and a GED certificate allegedly thrown away.