Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Homeless man convicted
of trespassing — at Naples shelter

St. Matthew’s House has been full for the past three years, so Juan Trejo stretched out on the floor of the Naples shelter’s old soup kitchen. He had no place else to sleep.

Then he spend the next 97 days in the Collier County Jail, charged with trespassing.

“This guy only wanted a place to sleep,” said Trejo’s attorney, Assistant Public Defender Michael Mummert. “St. Matthew’s House is the last place you would think would press charges.”

A deputy sheriff on routine patrol spotted Trejo lying on the floor of the old soup kitchen, which was being remodeled. That made it a construction site, whre trespassing is prohibited. The deputy arrested Trejo, who said he’d just been released from jail and had no place to go. Court records show he’d just served 10 days for petty theft after he was caught shoplifting at a grocery store.

And now, Trejo is still in jail, awaiting deportation.

Read the Naples Daily News article here.*
* The story is chock full of inaccuracies, so I'm really not sure how much to believe. Some are minor: Ellison turns into Ellis and somebody named Hardt pops up with no further explanation (although it appears he/she is a judge). Another is pretty major: the story says that under federal law, homeless people are allowed to sleep on public property if shelters are full. That’s not exactly true. What is true is that the settlement of a federal lawsuit, Pottinger v. Miami, prohibited Miami police from arresting homeless people engaged in "life-sustaining conduct" -- such as sleeping or eating -- on public property when there is no shelter space available.


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