The City of Sausalito and the Sausalito Homeless Union reached a settlement agreement on Friday, ending more than 18 months of extremely contentious litigation.
Under the terms of the agreement, Sausalito will pay $540,000 to the Sausalito Homeless Union. From that fund, 30 homeless people will receive $18,000 each to be spent on housing or housing related expenses. All the recipients are current or former residents of the city-sanctioned encampment, which is now located on the Marinship tennis courts.
“It was difficult to pick 30 people,” Anthony Prince, attorney for the Homeless Union, said. “We had to systematically determine who is most in need of housing. Not everyone is going to get the assistance they deserve. But most of the people who were at Dunphy Park and then moved to Marinship Park are included in the settlement.”
The agreement requires the funds to be distributed directly to the homeless individuals. The 30 people will have agency to decide what type of durable housing is suitable for them and their families.
The City of Sausalito will be appointing a housing coordinator to work with the Homeless Union to connect people to housing. After everyone is housed, the city plans to shut down the encampment.
“I am confident we have paved a humane course of action that allows each person’s unique needs to be met,” Sausalito Mayor Janelle Kellman said in a press release issued by the city. “This agreement will allow us to help folks restore their lives in a way that is far more compassionate and safer than the unfortunate circumstance of living outdoors.”
The city has spent more than $1.5 million in expenses related to the homeless encampment, mostly on legal fees and a controversial organization to manage the camp.
There is no gag order on the parties regarding the terms of the agreement. The names of the 30 people receiving the funds will not be a part of the public record; however, those individuals are free to share the information.
Surprisingly, the settlement agreement does not address the city’s anti-camping ordinance, which was the catalyst for homeless people to establish the Sausalito chapter of the Homeless Union and file the lawsuit. The ordinance, passed by the city council in February 2021, bans homeless people from sleeping on public property, except at the city-sanctioned encampment in Marinship.
Once the encampment is closed, where will homeless people be permitted to sleep in Sausalito? Nowhere, unless the city changes the ordinance, which doesn’t appear likely to happen.
“Our [the Homeless Union] position is the ordinance is unlawful and unconstitutional,” Prince said. “The parties are in agreement that the settlement does not resolve those concerns.”
The ordinance violates Martin v. Boise, a 2018 decision by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which states cities must allow homeless people to sleep on public property unless it can provide them with an appropriate alternative shelter option, according to Prince. There are far more homeless people in Marin than shelter beds.
Prince acknowledges the ordinance was an important issue for the Homeless Union and that they didn’t get everything they wanted from the settlement agreement.
“We’re not happy about that, but we didn’t see any alternative, Prince said. “It was a necessary compromise on our part to get housing for the people the homeless union represents.”
The new president of the Sausalito Homeless Union, Arthur Bruce, said he’s one of the 30 recipients. He believes the funding is a good first step to stabilize people and help them get back on their feet.
“I’m beyond delighted because it will allow me to spend more time with my children and provide better for them,” Bruce said.