San Francisco officials have ordered the removal of homeless residents who are living in cars, tents, or under parking lots under Interstate 80 starting on Monday, prompting advocates to argue they have a right to stay where they are.

The city’s moratorium on evictions while the coronavirus pandemic is still going strong should only apply to residential spaces and not areas where homeless people seek shelter, the Coalition on Homelessness said.

Homeless Residents

“I can’t afford a (house), but I have a place. I’ve always had mobile homes before. I’ve rented here for about five years until they declared bankruptcy and gave the place up. I like to have my own place, come in when I want, have my stuff,” a long-term resident at the Merlin Street encampment, Greg Smith, said.

Smith said he preferred to live in his vehicle than a single-room-occupancy hotel where many people share a small area. The director of litigation and policy at Eviction Defense Collaborative, Ora Prochovnick, said homeless residents had a strong legal case supporting them.

“California law clearly provides that it is illegal to remove a tenant without first providing proper written notice and a court process. The situations of many of the people who have been residing for a substantial period of time at the property on Merlin Street raise strong evidence of a legal tenancy, and any doubts must be resolved in favor of the residents’ due process rights,” Prochovnick said.

The California Highway Patrol is set to remove people from the encampment and clear the temporary housing on Monday. The area is located at the city’s 450 Fifth St., NBC Bay Area reported.