Putting a Dent in the Mental Illness/Homelessness Pandemic

Proposal of Franklin L. Ferguson, Jr., Civil Rights Attorney,  Copyright 

“Putting a Dent in the Mental Illness/Homelessness  Pandemic” 

All data pertains to Calendar Year 2022 

Homelessness Data 

  1. Approximately 573,333 people in U.S. experienced Homelessness 
  2. 172,000 Californians homeless = 30% of U.S. homeless population 
  3. 41,980 homeless in Los Angeles = 7% of U.S. homeless population 

FLF: The homeless gravitate to the weather and other factors which make California in general and Los  Angeles in particular “conducive” to homelessness. I believe homelessness qualifies as a FEMA  defined disaster. Just as hurricanes are prone to certain “environments,” homelessness is a “natural” phenomenon that should not be so heavily borne by California in general and Los Angeles in particular 

Disaster-An occurrence of a natural catastrophe, technological accident, or human-caused event that has resulted in severe property damage, deaths, and/or multiple injuries. As used in this Guide, a “large-scale disaster” is one that exceeds the response capability of the local jurisdiction and requires State,  and potentially Federal, involvement. As used in the Stafford Act, a “major disaster” is “any natural catastrophe *…+ or, regardless of cause, any fire, flood, or explosion, in any part of the United States, which in the determination of the President causes damage of sufficient severity and magnitude to warrant major disaster assistance under [the] Act to supplement the efforts and available resources or States, local governments, and disaster relief organizations in alleviating the damage, loss, hardship, or suffering caused thereby.” 

Roughly 25% of the homeless population suffers from mental illness 

  1. Mentally ill persons entitled to “affirmative,” pro-active outreach services. “Meet them where  they live.”
  2. Mobility disabled persons entitled to affirmative, pro-active sidewalk amelioration.

Mental illness is a disability under the ADA 

The ADA defines a person with a disability as a person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activity. This  includes people who have a record of such an impairment, even if they do not currently have a disability. It also includes individuals who do not have a disability but are regarded as having a disability. The ADA also makes it unlawful to discriminate against a person based on that person’s association with a person with a disability. 

Federal Court has jurisdiction over suing federal government pursuant to: 

5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(4)(B) and 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331, 2201, and 2202.

Potential Defendants: U.S. Dept. of Transportation and U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security (FEMA)  Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)

Violation of Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act 42 U.S.C. § 12131, et seq.

  1. The “ADA” provides that people with disabilities be afforded “the full and equal enjoyment of  the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations of any place of public  accommodation …” 42 U.S.C. § 12182(a).
  2. The ADA ensures that transportation facilities are constructed to a set of standards that ensures  accessibility for the disabled. Sidewalks are the most common element of transportation  infrastructure, yet if they are not accessible, they pose great challenges and dangers to anyone  in a wheelchair or who has other mobility restrictions.
  3. Sidewalks are subject to the access requirements of Title II of the ADA and § 504 of the  Rehabilitation Act. 42 U.S.C. § 12101(1); Willits, 925 F. Supp. 2d at 1093 (“Any public sidewalk  over which the City of Los Angeles has responsibility to inspect and notify property owners of  repair needs is a ‘program, service, or activity’ within the meaning of Title II of the Americans  with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.”).
  4. Sidewalk width requirements ensure that sidewalks are accessible for use by wheelchair-bound  individuals. The minimum width for an ADA-compliant sidewalk is 36 inches. 36 C.F.R. § 1191,  app. D, § 403.5.1 (2014) (“the clear width of walking surfaces shall be 36 inches (915 mm)  minimum”). Where obstructions such as telephone poles, traffic signal cabinets, or other utilities  exist, the sidewalk must be constructed to allow the minimum width requirement of 36 inches between the edge of the obstruction and the edge of the sidewalk. Id. “A public entity shall  maintain in operable working condition those features of facilities and equipment that are  required to be readily accessible to and usable by persons with disabilities by the Act or this  part.” 28 C.F.R § 35.133(a) (2011).
  5. Los Angeles City is failing to uphold their obligations to maintain clear and accessible sidewalks  and public rights-of way for its disabled residents and visitors, resulting in regular violations of  the Americans with Disabilities Act. FEMA is responsible for assisting City in avoiding these ADA  violations, which are obvious and known to the City and County both through its own  inspections and various reports of blocked sidewalks due to encampments through its own  reporting mechanisms, such as 311. Defendants and its agents and employees have failed and  continue to fail to provide reasonable accommodations for disabled persons using public  sidewalks.
  6. Defendants are obligated to operate the “service, program, or activity” “so that . . ., when  viewed in its entirety, it is readily accessible to and useable by individuals with disabilities. 28

C.F.R. § 35.150(a) (2012). Yet when “viewed in its entirety” public rights-of-way are not provided  by Defendants to be “readily accessible to and useable” by individuals bound to wheelchairs. 7. The discrimination and denial of access to the City’s rights-of-way for persons with disabilities is  the direct result of Defendants’ policies and practices of deliberately permitting encampments  to proliferate, particularly in certain areas such as Skid Row or on Venice Blvd under the 405  freeway, and the failure to adopt or implement any adequate procedure for regularly inspecting  and maintaining the pedestrian rights-of-way clear of obstructions. 178. As a direct and  proximate result of the aforementioned acts, including but not limited to Defendants’ deliberate  indifference to the violation of Mr. Van Scoy and Mr. Suarez’s federally protected rights, both  have suffered pain, humiliation, hardship, anxiety, indignity, and severe mental and emotional  anguish. This causes each of them to be deprived of their independence and prevents each from  accessing the services and benefits of public establishments. 179. Plaintiffs Van Scoy and Suarez  are entitled to recover compensatory damages and reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs  incurred in bringing this action