Two homeless individuals and a non-profit are suing Pottstown Borough in court.
Stating that their clients will suffer “cruel and unusual punishment” and a deprivation of their constitutional right to safety if the borough forces people off an encampment, the service agency Better Days Ahead Outreach Inc., recently filed a lawsuit in federal court and requested a jury trial, according to the complaint below.
Plaintiffs Alfredo Beltran and Daniel Wanner have been living outside at the College Drive Encampment since earlier this year. Both became homeless at some point in 2022, according to court filings.
Pottstown Borough posted signs in mid-October along the approximate 1-mile stretch between Route 100 and the Route 422 interchange, informing the public that “no trespassing” would be tolerated. Borough Manager Justin Keller recently told the press that the Dec. 1 deadline for campers to vacate is out of concern for their safety.
Keller said in a statement to MediaNews Group that “a number of tents, structures and other items of the unhoused” were found on borough-owned property “within the floodway near Keystone Boulevard.” Keller maintained borough officials have “taken steps to proactively address these concerns with a focus on compassion and understanding,” and cited “safety reasons” for the move.
Mark Boorse, director with Access Services street outreach, recently said that approximately 90 people live outside in the Pottstown area, although that number is always in flux. Specifically, the College Drive camp has between 20 and 25 people, which makes it extremely challenging to find alternative living arrangements in a short period of time, he said.
Montgomery County has no year-round shelter for single adults. The waitlist for hotel services can be three to six months.
According to the complaint, “As a result of these very limited shelter options, most unhoused Borough of Pottstown residents have no choice but to sleep outside Although unhoused residents generally have no choice but to sleep outside, the Borough of Pottstown has taken an increasingly aggressive stance towards unhoused residents over the past two years.”
From a legal standpoint, the plaintiffs allege that the Borough has violated their clients’ constitutional protections under the 8th Amendment (cruel and unusual punishment) and the 14th Amendment’s Due Process Clause. Specifically, “people have a
constitutionally protected liberty interest in personal bodily integrity,” the complaint states.
“When the government creates a foreseeable danger to a person in willful disregard of that person’s safety and bodily integrity, the government is liable for that harm under the ‘state-created danger’ doctrine. Sweeping the College Drive Encampment will disperse residents without adequate resources and access to alternative shelter.”
Demonstrators gathered outside Norristown Council chambers in June when a similar "sweep" was announced.
Join Montco 30% Project at Monday evening’s Council meeting beginning at 6:30 p.m. (outside for a demonstration). You do not need to be a resident of the Borough to speak during public comment.
100 E. High Street, Pottstown PA 19464