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ACLU says proposed Grand Rapids amendments target homeless people in unconstitutional ways

U.S. Government Accountability Office
A young homeless person with belongings in a plastic bag.

The ACLU of Michigan is asking Grand Rapids leaders not to approve proposed ordinance amendments that the group says would harm homeless residents.

ACLU Attorney Dayja Tillman said the changes violate basic constitutional principles.

For example, one amendment would allow the city to seize "excess property," defined as anything over 32 gallons, if it's in certain public places.

"Not only should the government not be able to take away people's property without justification, but they also absolutely should not be able to tell people how much property they can literally own," she said.

Another amendment would prohibit tents from being erected in any public place. Tillman said homeless people sometimes have no other way to protect themselves from the elements.

"Making homelessness less visible does not end homelessness," she said, adding that there are better ways to address the issue, such as more supportive housing.

The city's mayor and six council members have not yet responded to emails asking for comment.

A public hearing on the proposed changes is scheduled for next week.

Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry and the business response to climate change for Michigan Public. She began her career at Michigan Public as an intern, where she was promptly “bitten by the radio bug,” and never recovered.
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