Court: Tel Aviv Must Provide Electricity to Homeless Tent Encampment

Israelis living in park near train station should have access to trailer with refrigerators and outlets, judge rules.

Moti Milrod

The city of Tel Aviv must restore power to the Arlosoroff homeless encampment by next Tuesday, the Tel Aviv District Court ruled this week.

Dozens of homeless people have been living in a small park near the Savidor Merkaz train station since the 2011 social protests. The city disconnected the only power line serving the encampment on December 4.

Judge Eliyahu Bachar rebuked the city for failing to reconnect the power supply to the tents over the past month.

“One thing that particularly bothered me about the city’s arguments that it had done everything it could to connect the encampment dwellers to power... is that the trailer where the meetings with the social workers take place is hooked up to the power grid,” wrote Bachar in his ruling, issued Tuesday. “If a trailer can be set up there and connected to the power grid, why can’t the city set up another trailer and connect that too?”

He said two refrigerators and additional power outlets could be placed in the second caravan, to provide the “minimal needs required by human beings who want to heat water in a kettle for a warm drink, especially on the extremely difficult winter days expected due to the fierce storm.”

The encampment dwellers petitioned the court late last year to instruct the city to provide them with basic living conditions, such as power, water, toilets, showers, social services and reasonable space.

The municipality rejected the petitioners’ demands, saying it had already allowed them to set up temporary protest tents in the park. A month ago the sides reached a compromise at the court’s instruction, under which the encampment’s area would be expanded a little and the city would make sure the living conditions met basic standards.

Following the agreement, the petition was voided.

A few days after cutting the encampment’s power off, the municipality installed lighting in the park, but did not reconnect the power line. The residents of the tent encampment asked the court to instruct the city to reconnect power to the park and said the city had violated agreements with them.

The municipality said the power connection constituted a safety hazard and said the fuse box had been damaged due to unauthorized use. The city also said the park was not a housing solution and that the municipality was not obligated to provide adequate infrastructure for housing in it. The court dismissed the city’s arguments.