An irritating injunction

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Per Curbed, a federal judge has just issued an injunction blocking the city from confiscating the property of homeless people on Skid Row.

His argument is that the city is not doing a good job of distinguishing between trash and valuable items (identification documents, medicine, etc.).

On the face of it, the judge’s argument makes sense. We don’t want our government to be causing any more pain and distress than is absolutely necessary… and taking away someone’s medicine seems to fail that test.

But I still think the judge is wrong, and here’s why: Government is first and foremost about providing citizens with a safe, orderly environment to live. Without this, it is not possible to exercise our other rights.

And what is going on on Skid Row is neither safe nor orderly. There, many homeless people spend their days gathering trash into piles and then disappearing, leaving their neighborhood to deal with the consequences.

Now, it’s true that the city and county need to do a better job of housing homeless people. (And we’ve talked at length on this blog about the challenges and opportunities in this area.)

But depriving the city of the means to deal with these piles of trash is insane… so insane that I’m tempted to ask where this judge lives. Because only someone who doesn’t see piles of garbage on his street every day could justify preventing the city from keeping itself clean.

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