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City Pays $50,000 to Homeless in Bedroll Confiscation Settlement

April 27, 1990

SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) _ Fifteen homeless people, some with only pennies in their pockets, came into a windfall when the city paid out $50,000 to settle a lawsuit protesting the mass street cleanup of stashed bedrolls.

″I’ve come up a long way in the world in just a matter of minutes,″ said Chuck Daigle, who began Thursday practically penniless and later received his share - a check for $3,308.46.

The unemployed restaurant worker planned a steak and lobster dinner, while co-plaintiff George Ellithorpe eyed a haircut and a shave. Most recipients wanted to use the money to help them get off the streets, said attorney Christopher Mears, who represented the group.

″I hope it’s not naive to be hopeful that, for a number of these people, the money is going to help turn things around,″ said Mears, who accepted only $373.10 to cover his expenses and court costs.

Plans ranged from finding a room for the night to car buying and traveling to Alaska in search of long-lost relatives, Mears said.

Daigle, who said he and Ellithorpe had less than 2 cents between them before receiving the checks, planned a train trip to Marysville in Northern California to visit relatives and look for work.

″I have a one-shot chance to change my life, and I’m going to do it. No more dreaming,″ said Daigle, 40.

The plaintiffs, who live in the streets near the Civic Center, filed suit in 1988 after their bedrolls and personal belongings were taken during a street sweep.

The confiscated belongings were not returned and some said they lost valuable identification papers, medical prescriptions and irreplaceable mementos.

At Mears’ request, Sunwest Bank in downtown Santa Ana agreed to open savings accounts or to cash the checks, even though most in the group have limited identification and no permanent address.

Most bought travelers checks.

Ellithorpe, 61, said his windfall wasn’t likely to last long. He planned to rent an apartment, buy eyeglasses to replace a pair he’s worn for 20 years, and get a haircut and a shave.

″I need a rest or a vacation from the streets for at least a month,″ he said. ″Then I’ll hit the bricks again.″

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