Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Wednesday, May 8, 2019


Page 1


Appeals Court: County Has No Duty to Provide Sleeping Facilities for Homeless


By a MetNews Staff Writer


The Sixth District Court of Appeal yesterday affirmed the denial of a petition for a writ of mandate filed by a group of homeless persons seeking to compel Santa Clara County to provide “adequate and appropriate places” for individuals such as themselves “to sleep safely each night between the hours of 8 p.m. to 7 a.m.”

In asserting the existence of such a duty, they pointed to Welfare and Institutions Code §17000, which requires each county to “relieve and support all incompetent, poor, indigent persons, and those incapacitated by age, disease, or accident,...when such persons are not supported and relieved by their relatives or friends, by their own means, or by state hospitals or other state or private institutions.”

Named as defendant was Sara Cody, director of the Santa Clara County Public Health Department.

Acting Presiding Justice Betty Bamattre-Manoukian wrote for the court in affirming. She said:

“[U]nder the statutory scheme, counties have ‘broad discretion’ to determine the types of relief that they will make available to fulfill their obligation to provide aid and care to indigent residents….Plaintiffs fail to provide legal authority to support their contention that a writ of mandate may be used to compel defendant (or the county) to provide the particular type of aid or care that plaintiffs seek in this case, that is, places to sleep nightly between 8:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m. A writ of mandate may not be used to compel a public body or official to exercise discretion ‘in a particular manner or to reach a particular result.’ ”

She added:

“We are not persuaded that a county’s obligation to provide ‘subsistence medical care’ under section 17000…includes a duty on the county’s part to generally provide sleeping sites nightly. The failure to meet any basic need, including food or housing, may result in deleterious effects on a person’s health. Plaintiffs fail to persuasively articulate how or why the general human need for housing constitutes necessary medical care within the context of section 17000.”

The case is Clinton v. Cody, H044030.


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