12/16 Homeless church deacon arrested for living in his donated tiny house

Michael Clark, known as "Red", with Lisa Kogan in front of the tiny house she gave him.

Michael Clark, known as “Red,” with Lisa Kogan in front of the tiny house she helped provide for him.

A group of San Diegans are outraged after building a tiny house for a homeless man only to have police arrest him for living in it.

Lisa Kogan was among those who raised money to have the tiny home built.

“What has really hit me in my heart is there’s a need out here, there’s a need for people to have shelter,” Kogan said…

“Had they written him a ticket and asked him to move the house he could have had plenty of help,” Brown said. “There was no discussion of a ticket. It was immediate handcuffs.”

“They said, ‘Well, we are going to give him two hours to move it,’” Brown explained. “Five minutes later there was a tow truck here and they took the house away.”

Police booked Red into the San Diego Jail for two misdemeanors, encroaching and lodging without consent.

Read more and watch the video – http://www.10news.com/news/police-arrest-homeless-man-for-living-in-a-tiny-house-donated-to-him-by-good-samaritans

Follow up story, 12/17/2015:

San Diego Police Department Capt. Chuck Kaye said Clark wasn’t singled out, and the house was treated like any other illegal item on the sidewalk.

“The encroachment issue is real,” he said. “We enforce it.”

While this was the first time he recalled a “house” being impounded, Kaye said the structure was treated no differently than the tents and other temporary shelters that homeless people erect on sidewalks downtown.

While tents and other shelters are a common sight on 16th and 17th streets downtown, they are illegal and may be occasionally cleared out by the city’s Environmental Service Department.

José Ysea, spokesman for the department, said the city gives 72 hours notice before doing a sweep, which are done in responses to complaints from residents or businesses or at the request of a City Council office.

Personal items such as prescription drugs, photos and other things of value are held for 90 days, while trashed items are thrown away. Ysea said homeless people usually know where to pick up their items.

Kaye said police are called if there is a complaint, and tents or other items may be confiscated as evidence.

Clark’s house is being held for 90 days, and Kogan said she plans to pick it up after she has found a place for it. She said she is not being charged for its storage.

Kaye said police officers do progressive enforcement to try to keep sidewalks clear, meaning people usually get a series of warnings before they are arrested.

“This particular gentleman has been provided warnings,” he said about Clark. “He’s been cited in the past. He wasn’t just singled out.”

In Los Angeles, the man who was featured in the YouTube videos has been facing an ongoing battle with the city over the tiny houses he has built.

“It’s always a challenge,” said Elvis Summers. “It has been from the start and will be for a while.”

Summers, who once was homeless himself, is founder of the charity Starting Human and first built a tiny house for a homeless woman in his neighborhood in April. Since then, he said he’s built dozens and placed them in other Los Angeles neighborhoods.

So far none of the houses has been impounded by police, he said, although the City Council has some concerns about his project.

As reported in the Los Angeles Times in August, Councilman Joe Buscaino raised safety questions about the houses and said they were “not the type of real estate I’m looking for in my district.”

The Times also quoted an assistant to the city attorney as saying that the structures qualify as bulky items that can be immediately removed under a new law.

Summers, who said he has hired an attorney, argued that the law is on his side.

“There’s no law against people having these,” he said, adding that the city doesn’t have a legal definition for the structures.

“The city has tried to take them away, but I’ve made it clear that I’ll drop a lawsuit on them so fast, it will make their head spin,” he said.

Summers admits that providing a tiny house for somebody is not a long-term solution to homelessness, which he said also requires help on the many issues people on the street face.

He said it could be a life-saving stopgap for people in Los Angeles and San Diego, which both have a shortage of shelters for the homeless.

“Here in L.A., there’s more than 40,000 people who have no place to go,” he said. “This is a very viable solution to save lives until they build the places that are needed.”

Summers has raised about $110,000 in an online campaign for his project, and this weekend he and volunteers plan to build and install 10 more tiny houses. He also plans to look for property to buy as a way of getting around the question of whether the dwellings are allowed on sidewalks.

Kogan said she plans to start a San Diego chapter of Summers’ charity, Starting Human, and Summers said he will help her with local fundraising.

Read more – http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/2015/dec/17/tiny-house-fundraiser-homeless/

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Elaine Walker