SCOTUS Rules That Cities May Ban Homeless People From Sleeping Outdoors, In Public

By a 6-3 majority, the U.S. Supreme Court decided that cities had the right to forbid homeless individuals from sleeping on the streets or in public.


Since at least the 1980s, many experts believe this time frame is when the current “homelessness epidemic” began in the United States.

Some notable left-wing pundits claim that this was due in part to former President Ronald Reagan’s “decision to close mental institutions” after signing a repeal of former President Jimmy Carter’s Mental Health Systems Act of 1980. However, others adamantly reject this claim and note that the legislation was repealed “with a Democratic majority in both houses.”

Three homeless people had filed a lawsuit in the city of Grants Pass, Oregon, after being given tickets for sleeping and camping outside, according to the BBC.

The city argued that criminal sanctions were required to uphold municipal regulations that prohibited homeless individuals from being in public areas for “reasons of cleanliness and safety” during a Supreme Court hearing back in April.

Due to the lack of public shelters in the city, the homeless residents claimed that the sanctions violated the Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

Justice Neil Gorsuch, writing for the Conservative majority, stated that the city’s camping regulations do not cause “terror, pain, or disgrace” in a decision published on Friday.

He also clarified that the prohibition places more emphasis on the acts of individuals than on their position alone and that it does not criminalize the “mere status” of homelessness.

“Under the city’s laws, it makes no difference whether the charged defendant is homeless, a backpacker on vacation passing through town, or a student who abandons his dorm room to camp out in protest on the lawn of a municipal building,” stated Justice Gorsuch.

Meanwhile, on behalf of the three liberal justices who dissented, Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote: “Sleep is a biological necessity, not a crime. Homelessness is a reality for so many Americans.”

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Yet, a number of cities welcomed the decision in posted statements. Grants Pass, the city at the center of the legal battle, announced that its officials would meet with their attorneys to consider the next steps.

San Francisco announced that it would assist areas in “managing our public spaces more effectively and efficiently.”

However, according to Jennifer Friedenbach of the San Francisco Coalition on Homelessness, funds and resources still ought to “go towards getting folks off the streets.”

“Around 653,000 people did not have homes in 2023, the largest number since tracking began in 2007, according to U.S. government figures…There were also an estimated 256,000 people living without shelter on a given night across the country last year, according to the Department of Housing and Urban Development,” BBC reported.

Soon after the ruling, the National Alliance to End Homelessness stated that this ruling “sets a dangerous precedent that will cause undue harm to people experiencing homelessness and give free reign to local officials who prefer pointless and expensive arrests and imprisonment, rather than real solutions.”

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