San Francisco’s Appeal of our Preliminary Injunction is Political Grandstanding; Reveals the City’s Refusal to Confront its Failed Response to the Homelessness and Affordable Housing Crisis

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: 25th January 2023

MEDIA CONTACT: Raya Steier 530-723-2426


On Monday, San Francisco City Attorney David Chiu filed a Notice of Appeal, stating his intention to appeal the emergency order that was granted in our lawsuit against the City of San Francisco for the City’s unlawful criminalization of homelessness. The emergency injunction granted by a federal judge in the Northern District Court of California, on December 23, 2022, prohibits the City from enforcing several cruel, unconstitutional, and ineffective policing practices that violate the civil rights of unhoused San Franciscans by criminalizing them based solely on the fact that they are homeless. Additionally, the order prevents the City from unlawfully seizing and destroying unhoused people’s survival and personal belongings.

In granting the preliminary injunction order, the Court rejected the City’s faulty response to our lawsuit that relied on offensive stereotypes of unhoused people and was divorced from their own data. Specifically, the Court found that the City had not been able to refute the mountain of evidence we presented that homeless individuals do not have practical access to shelter, are not offered shelter before enforcement, and that the City had violated its own policies by indiscriminately destroying people’s valuable survival belongings, medication, and priceless sentimental items.

The City’s decision to appeal the order demonstrates its unwillingness to address the humanitarian crisis on the streets in a just and humane way, all the while seeking to continue the City’s own regressive mass incarceration era policies that further perpetuate the homelessness crisis. The City has little to nothing to offer to San Francisco’s thousands of unsheltered residents in terms of shelter, housing, and services even though the City’s own policies purport to require a services-first approach. In its decision to appeal the order, the City has signaled that it is not serious about solving the homelessness crisis.

The City has shut down its shelter system, closed its reservation system, and ended same-day shelter lines, making it impossible for currently unhoused people to voluntarily access shelter in San Francisco.  Despite this reality, the City continues to make baseless assertions of mass shelter refusal. The opposite is true. There was a massive waitlist for shelter and people regularly accept appropriate shelter when offered.  The injunction should have served as a wake-up call for the City to stop scapegoating unhoused people for its own affordable housing failures, and to finally create the affordable housing necessary to house homeless San Franciscans. Instead, the City has decided to spend our tax dollars to continue violating the civil rights of unhoused San Franciscans who have nowhere to go.

Attorney Statements:

“The City’s statements to the public about this case have been nothing short of mendacious. San Francisco cannot possibly claim that unhoused people have access to shelter when it has closed the shelter system, closed same-day shelter lines, and unhoused people no longer have any realistic way to voluntarily access shelter anywhere in San Francisco. San Francisco’s claims of mass shelter refusal are, in other words, baseless. The Court’s order only blocks San Francisco from enforcing its brutal anti-homelessness laws against the thousands of unhoused San Franciscans whom the City has obviously left languishing on our streets without access to shelter. These jarring bureaucratic failures impact all of us. The City’s appeal is a disingenuous, nakedly political move that will cost all San Franciscans in the long run.” – Zal K. Shroff, Senior Staff Attorney, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area.

“Let’s be clear, the City had options.  The City’s appeal is not about clean streets or compliance with the prior UC Hastings (now UC Law SF) settlement.  The Court indicated it can still do both while not engaging in useless, traumatizing sweeps.  Instead, the City wastefully chooses to proceed with business as usual.” –John Do, Senior Staff Attorney, American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California.

Plaintiff Statements:

“The City has been abusing unhoused people’s fundamental human rights, and gaslighting San Francisco residents regarding the issue despite the mountain of evidence before them. The City’s decision to appeal against the injunction order is just another example of how the City has refused to work collaboratively with the community to address this humanitarian crisis in an effective and humane way. Homelessness is a serious issue and the City should be giving it the attention it deserves instead of sloppily calling for a continuation of the tried and failed status quo.” –Jennifer Friedenbach, Executive Director, The Coalition on Homelessness San Francisco