Hastings Race and Poverty Law Journal


Kevin Bundy


As municipalities across the nation employ increasingly aggressive anti-homeless policies, homeless people are suffering seizure and destruction of their personal belongings without due process or compensation. Courts generally have not proven receptive to homeless people's claims based on loss of personal property, in some instances refusing to recognize that the homeless can exercise any legally protected property interest at all. Homeless existence itself-a lack of private, defensible space in which to perform basic life functions and secure ownership over personal belongings-leaves homeless people with no legally sanctioned place in which to dwell, and exposes them to arbitrary deprivations of whatever belongings they carry with them. Taken together, these circumstances create a de facto disability to own property for homeless people. Property disabilities historically have marked certain classes of people, such as slaves, as legally incomplete or inferior subjects. The historical and moral context of the Reconstruction Amendments indicates that imposition of a new property disability on the homeless, as a contemporary disenfranchised class, should be constitutionally troubling. This Note argues that homeless people's rights in their personal property should be protected, and considers several possible constitutional sources of protection for these rights. Because many currently available legal arguments will likely prove insufficient, the Note concludes that local governments should work with homeless people and their advocates to secure permanent, supportive housing for America's growing homeless population.

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