Supremes Take Up THIS Homeless Problem

US Supreme Court

( – The United States Supreme Court is now deliberating on the legality of municipal prohibitions against outdoor sleeping by homeless people amid rising homelessness and an insufficient number of shelter beds nationwide.

The debate focuses on ordinances from Grants Pass, Oregon, which prevent the use of bedding on public lands, as public spaces have become overrun with tents, blankets, and cardboard.

Advocates for the homeless contend that such prohibitions, when no alternative sleeping arrangements are available, constitute “cruel and unusual punishment”—a violation of the Eighth Amendment, as previously determined by the Ninth Circuit Court in a 2022 decision now under appeal at the Supreme Court.

The impending decision from the nine justices is critical, given the backdrop of a record 653,100 individuals being homeless across the nation, as per a 2023 survey, Insider Paper reports.

This situation is exacerbated by widespread urban poverty, mental health crises, addiction, and a shortage of affordable housing. Municipalities nationwide have implemented camping bans as a strategy to clear public areas of homeless populations.

“The cruel and unusual punishments clause governs which punishments are permitted, not what conduct can be prohibited,” Theane Evangelis, representing Grants Pass, asserted during oral arguments.

“This court should reverse and end the Ninth Circuit’s failed experiment, which has fueled the spread of encampments while harming those it purports to protect,” the lawyer added.

Grants Pass, with a population of 40,000, lacks a city-operated shelter, relying instead on private charities.

Legal representatives opposing the ordinance argued before the predominantly conservative Supreme Court that the city’s strategy effectively pushes homeless individuals to neighboring areas.

“The plan was to inflict fines and jail time on the City’s homeless residents until they were ‘uncomfortable enough’ that they left Grants Pass,” they stated.

“[The ordinances] nominally prohibit camping, but in reality make it unlawful for homeless people to sleep or rest anywhere on public property at any time with so much as a blanket to survive the cold, even if they have no access to shelter,” the lawyers insisted.

When Chief Justice John Roberts inquired about the city’s course of action should their appeal be unsuccessful, Evangelis responded that the city would consequently lose control over its public spaces.

“It will be forced to surrender its public spaces,” Evangelis added.

The issue is further complicated by factors such as drug addiction and insufficient shelter facilities, which drive homelessness.

Additionally, economists note a significant shortfall in the U.S. housing market—millions of homes below the necessary quota to meet demand, which also inflates the cost of available housing.

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