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Suit against city focuses on homeless rights

A long simmering legal battle to force the city of San Diego to deal with the homeless is coming to a head. The outcome could set a precedent for other cities with growing homeless populations. KPBS reporter Alison St John has more.

A federal judge in San Diego is expected to rule soon on whether ticketing homeless people for sleeping on public property might be violating their constitutional rights. Attorney Tim Cohelan, represents nine homeless people in the class action suit.

He argues since the city isn't providing alternatives, preventing people from sleeping in public places amounts to sleep deprivation, which is cruel and unusual punishment.

Cohelan: "Once you've established that there are these limitations on what we can ask the police to do, then it becomes our responsibility to find other methods of dealing with this problem of homelessness and displaced persons in a more responsible way."

If the judge denies the city's attempts to get the case dismissed, Cohelan says the next step for the homeless would be to ask for safe zones where they could sleep in peace without fear of being woken with a ticket. Alison St John, KPBS news.

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