The New York Civil Liberties Union yesterday filed suit seeking to stop a recent NYPD initiative by which homeless people are being targeted for arrest. The suit was brought on behalf of Picture the Homeless, a grass-roots organization comprised of and led by homeless and formerly homeless persons that works to protect the civil and human rights of the homeless.

Under the NYPD homeless-arrest program, which started in mid-October following press reports about increased numbers of homeless on City streets, the Department’s Homeless Outreach Unit has arrested approximately 250 homeless people for minor offenses. The suit alleges that the unit not only is arresting large numbers of homeless people but is singling out the homeless for arrest for offenses for which non-homeless people are not being arrested.

NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman said, “It is wrong and illegal to single out the homeless for arrest. While the growing numbers of homeless people on City streets is a serious problem about which we all should be concerned, arresting the homeless is no solution.”

Angel Ramirez, a member of Picture the Homeless, said, “We are forced out of the park for appearing homeless when other people are left alone. It’s an injustice and it makes me feel that I’m not a person and don’t have rights because I’m homeless.”

NYCLU Associate Legal Director Christopher Dunn said, “The City has informed us that it intends to take immediate action to correct this situation, and we welcome that. If we can stop this homeless-arrest policy by working with the City, we certainly are prepared to do so. Our goal is to stop the selective enforcement of the law against the homeless.