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Federal Judge Extends Temporary Restraining Order Blocking the City From Sweeping Homeless Encampments

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

A federal judge has extended a temporary order Friday that bars Chico police from clearing homeless encampments. District Judge Morrison England, Jr., extended his restraining order against the city for three more weeks.

In the meantime, he told lawyers for both Chico and the group of unhoused people suing over the city’s sweeps to work together to try to come to a resolution.

The judge said he sees problems on both sides.

He said the city has a group of ordinances that when taken together appears in violation of the constitution. Homeless people, he said, cannot avoid criminal prosecution unless they walk continuously 24 hours a day and have no personal property.

The judge suggested the ordinances were drafted and enacted to make voters in Chico feel good regardless of their compliance with the law.

Turning to lawyers for the unhoused plaintiffs, he said it appears at least one of their clients has voluntarily decided not to access shelter beds that may be available to her. The Eighth Amendment prohibits criminal penalties for sitting, sleeping or lying on public property against those who cannot obtain shelter. The judge said that doesn’t mean the shelter unhoused people would prefer or would like.

Judge England set a new hearing for May 14. He suggested that if negotiations fail, neither side would be happy with a solution he comes up with.

A graduate of California State University, Chico, Andre Byik is an award-winning journalist who has reported in Northern California since 2012. He joined North State Public Radio in 2020, following roles at the Chico Enterprise-Record and Chico News & Review.