A New Mexico judge has lifted a temporary order that had mandated the city of Albuquerque stop throwing away the possessions of homeless people without providing notice and an offer to store their belongings.

District Court Judge Joshua Allison stood by his previous finding that the city had seized and destroyed personal property without providing “basic constitutional protections.” But, on Friday, he wrote that a pending U.S. Supreme Court ruling could alter arguments in the Albuquerque case, and until the Supreme Court rules, any resolution to the New Mexico case is “unworkable.”

Recent reporting by ProPublica showed the city had routinely ignored the injunction as well as its own policies for dealing with encampments, which have crowded sidewalks and popped up in empty lots.

Advocates for homeless people expressed frustration over the judge’s decision, saying the city should have done more during the six months the injunction was in effect to curb its aggressive campaign to remove encampments.

“We thought things would change,” said Ilse Biel, a longtime community advocate. “None of that actually worked.”

Regardless, Biel said she and other volunteers will continue to collect affidavits from people whose rights are violated by having their possessions taken.

Those written accounts were the basis for Allison’s prior injunction against the city. Lawyers for the American Civil Liberties Union, joined by the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty and two private law firms, sued in December 2022 on behalf of eight homeless people. They alleged that the criminalization of unhoused people and the confiscation of personal property amounted to cruel and unusual punishment and deprivation of property rights. A trial was set for August but has been vacated until the Supreme Court case is decided. (A New Mexico Supreme Court appeal initiated by the city in response to the injunction is also pending.)

“I would just want to see the city actually wanting to change the situation,” Biel said.

In a written statement responding to the judge’s order, Albuquerque said it will “continue to offer shelter and resources to those experiencing homelessness in our community, including transportation to services and storage.”

“The city makes every effort to provide resources and shelter to those experiencing homelessness, and we balance those efforts with the need to keep our city clean and safe for all who live here,” said city spokesperson Staci Drangmeister.

City policy instructs workers to give notice before removing personal items, to try to find people whose possessions have been left unattended and to offer to connect them to services. If they cannot find the individual, the city is supposed to store property for 90 days. ProPublica found the storage program is rarely used.

Christine Barber, the executive director of AsUR, an organization that serves women living on the street, frequently drives around the city’s International District neighborhood, which has one of the highest homeless populations in Albuquerque, handing out hygiene supplies and other survival gear. Barber said she has never seen city crews try to find the occupants of tents before discarding them and other possessions. She fears the workers will now become more aggressive.

“Those policies have been around for awhile and they’ve never applied them,” Barber said, adding that she sees a disconnect between what the city administration says and what city workers do.

During an Albuquerque City Council meeting Monday night, the council member who represents the International District, Nichole Rogers, said she had witnessed earlier that day encampment “operations” occurring in full force. Rogers said she didn’t see city crews offer resources and had “questions about our response.”

Chief Administrative Officer Samantha Sengel said that encampment removals may happen more on Mondays because crews are responding to a backlog of calls from the weekends. The city said it responds to more than 50 reports of illegal camping a day.

“Even if there isn’t an injunction, we believe that our city policy is the appropriate way for us to interact and make sure we’re taking care of individuals,” she said.

Before the injunction was rescinded, ProPublica spoke to nearly 30 people who said their belongings were discarded without an offer of storage or resources.

The city in recent years has increased its pace of clearing encampments. In 2023, crews visited more than 4,500 locations where people were camping, more than double the number from the previous year, according to data obtained from the Solid Waste Management Department. The city is on pace to remove nearly 6,000 encampment locations this year, according to the data.

Adam Flores, one of the attorneys who sued the city over its handling of homelessness, said even if the injunction was being ignored, it was important to be able to say there was a court order in place.

“It’s a hard pill to swallow because there’s no question that the city’s violating people’s rights and that those violations are causing irreparable harm to thousands of people here in Albuquerque who are forced to live outside,” he said. “There’s no court order to protect anybody anymore, there’s nothing that people can even point to.”

Have You Experienced Homelessness? Do You Work With People Who Have? Tell Us About Encampment Removals.

We’re investigating what happens when local agencies remove homeless encampments and take belongings from the people living in them — an increasingly common practice across the country.