Hundreds Seek Money Owed Over California Homeless Sweeps

The California Department of Transportation agreed to pay $5.5 million over claims that the agency illegally removed and destroyed property that belonged to various homeless residents in East Bay, but hundreds claim they’re still waiting for their payment.

“We’re engaged in this monumental process trying to get compensation to all these homeless people,” Osha Neumann, an attorney with the East Bay Community Law Center who is representing the homeless plaintiffs in the suit, told The Mercury News. “I think it’s unprecedented. I’ve never heard of anything similar happening.”

Caltrans settled with the plaintiffs in the case Sanchez v. Caltrans — a lawsuit that claimed that the agency illegally removed and destroyed the belongings of people who had camped out in East Bay — and has paid about $1.3 million directly to those affected. However, over 720 people claim that they still have yet to receive the restitution they are owed for the destruction of their belongings, which in one case included the ashes of a family member.

“It looked like a lot of stuff was simply bulldozed into a pile, and that is disturbing that that happened,” Neumann said, referring to the clearing of a homeless encampment in Oakland last month. “So we’re monitoring that very carefully.”

Due to the influx of responses, the court extended the deadline past its initial end date of last Friday until Dec. 14. Neumann said that he estimates as many as 1,500 people could qualify for financial restitution under the agreement.

“I think we’re going to miss people,” he said. “That has worried me. I know there are people who I contacted way at the beginning of the case who I don’t know where they are now.”

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