Today’s story is about Mr. Steven Long. He’s a construction worked who lives in Seattle, Washington.
Long had been homeless since March 2014, when he was evicted from his apartment after the rent got too high and he missed payments. He said he had previously lived out of a camper in the 1980s, traveling through five different states, so he thought he’d try sleeping in his truck.’
In fall 2016, when Long was doing cleanups for the Sounders, he had parked his truck in the 900 block of Poplar Place, near the Interstate 90 and Interstate 5 interchange. “It was out of the way,” according to Mr. Long’s testimony.
Steven Long returned from his job cleaning up CenturyLink Field after a Seattle Sounders’ game when he discovered that his truck was gone.
He had been living in his 2000 GMC pickup, parked on a side street, but the city of Seattle towed it because Long had violated a city rule that requires vehicles be moved every 72 hours.
Mr. Long claimed he told the officers he was living in the truck; Nonetheless, Mr. Long tore off the impound sticker, and left the truck in place.
The parking officer waited at least four days before having the vehicle towed, giving Long extra time to buy a part needed to get it running. When the enforcement officer returned Oct. 12, the truck was still there but Long was not, and the vehicle was towed.
At the impound hearing, Long said the truck was his residence. The city waived the $44 ticket and reduced the towing and impound fees from more than $900 to $557.
Long sued the city but lost in Seattle Municipal Court in May 2017. He filed an appeal, which Judge Shaffer heard in the Spring of 2019, and she ordered the city to refund Long the money he has so far paid.
King County Superior Court Judge Catherine Shaffer ruled that the city’s impoundment of Long’s truck violated the state’s homestead act — a frontier-era law that protects properties from forced sale — because he was using it as a home. Long’s vehicle was slated to be sold had he not entered into a monthly payment plan with the city.
The City has since appealed the case to the State level appeals court. ]
The appeals court judges have been asked to decide the case on two main questions: Does fining someone living in their vehicle violate the U.S. Constitution’s Eighth Amendment barring “excessive fines” and “cruel and unusual punishments;” and does attaching an impound fee to the vehicle, refusing to release the truck until Long entered into a payment plan to address the fees, violate Washington state’s Homestead Act, a frontier-era law that protects homes from being easily seized and forcibly sold?
Long’s lawyers argue that not only was Long forced by the seizure of his vehicle to sleep outside, but the fines amount to the city punishing him for being homeless.
They argued that it is punitive to take away a man’s home because of a parking violation.
Long still lives in a truck, now with a trailer attached, but outside Seattle now. He’s working a full-time carpentry job in construction.
A ruling from the State Appeals Court is expected within six months.
There’s no question that the despite being among the richest nations in the world, we in the west haven’t figured out how to care for the homeless in our midst and help them get a roof over their heads.