On October 4, 1994, the ACLU of Ohio filed a lawsuit on behalf of four homeless individuals and the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless (NEOCH) challenging Cleveland police’s practice of rounding up homeless people from the downtown area and “dumping” them in remote parts of the city.  Two years of extensive investigation revealed that this practice originated from orders by superior officers and Mayor Mike White’s office, who wished to prevent the homeless from visiting areas of downtown, such as Public Square and the Flats.  If the homeless defied police orders, officers would forcibly remove them to remote areas of Cleveland and abandon them.  Arguing on behalf of the homeless plaintiffs, ACLU of Ohio lawyers Kevin O’Neill, Ray Vasvari, James Levin, and Gino Scarselli claimed that this practice violated their right to be free from unreasonable seizures, as well as their due process rights, as guaranteed by the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments.

After failed negotiation attempts, the case was set to go to trial in February 1997.  Before the trial began, the U.S. District Court judge stated that he would allow the ACLU to subpoena Mayor Mike White to appear in court.  Days later, a settlement was reached.  Cleveland agreed to issue a directive forbidding police from transporting homeless people against their will.  The settlement also required the city to issue a public statement rejecting forcible removal and dumping of homeless people.  The city agreed to pay $9,000 to NEOCH to help the homeless plaintiffs find housing, education, and job training.

Read about the case on the National Coalition for the Homeless’ website.

Read ACLU of Ohio’s summary of this case in their Spring 1995 issue of their newsletter, ACLU News.

Date filed

October 4, 1994