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Homeless Advocates Ready To Take No-Camping Ordinance Fight To Federal Court

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — Tensions are high in the homeless community after a jury ruled Sacramento Police can continue enforcing the city's no-camping ordinance.

Sherri Hughes says high rent forced her out of her home and onto the street. But when she got here, she claims it wasn't just the housing market discriminating against her.

"They'd wake me up to make me get off the ground and tell me I can't sleep there," said Hughes.

Hughes is just one voice in Sacramento's growing homeless community worried that police unfairly arrest them for camping in public and private places.

Police say they're simply enforcing the city's longtime no-camping ordinance, and only arrest campers who pose a threat.

"Our goal is to manage public places, public safety," said Sacramento Police Spokeswoman Linda Matthew.

A jury voted 9-3 on Thursday in favor of keeping the ordinance in place.

"All the jurors in our four hours of deliberation felt the homeless situation is deplorable," said juror Steve Stevens.

The case goes back about eight years ago. Homeless people sued the city, arguing police violated their constitutional rights when they broke up their camps- even though they were set up on private property with the owner's consent.

"It's an uphill road to show the ordinance is discriminatorily or selectively enforced," said Civil Rights Attorney Mark Merin.

Mark Merin plans to file a new lawsuit in federal court. He cites a case in Houston where a federal judge ruled in favor of the homeless, striking down the city's no camping ordinance.

"This ordinance will be struck down, and the city will be forced to actually deal with the thousands of people on the street," he said.

He says his clients aren't asking for money. They just want the right to safely camp outside without being hassled.

"The police the city they like to take the rights away from those of us they aren't doing anything wrong," said Hughes.

The city released a statement on behalf of the city attorney saying in part ordinances are adopted and enforced for the benefit of the public.

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