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Supreme Court to Decide Legality of Homeless Encampments on Western U.S. Public Property

Governor Newsom Awaits Supreme Court’s Verdict on Homeless Rights

By Keemia Zhang

The Supreme Court agreed Friday to rule on the legality of homeless encampments on public property in the western United States. 

The court will review an appeal from the city of Grants Pass, Oregon, backed by Governor Newsom, to decide if homeless citizens “have a constitutional right to sleep on public property” if they have no other option of shelter, per an LA Times report

The 9th Circuit of Appeals previously ruled against Grants Pass and decreed that it was “cruel and unusual punishment” to arrest homeless people for sleeping on the street, and added that the government could not prevent them from “using a blanket, pillow, or cardboard box for protection from the elements.”

The ruling is currently enforced in the nine Western states of Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon and Washington. California alone currently hosts half of the country’s homeless population. 

Regarding the review, the Governor stated that despite “billions” invested by the state to alleviate homelessness, “rulings from the bench have tied the hands of state and local governments to address this issue. He urged the court to  “correct course and end the costly delays from lawsuits that have plagued our efforts to clear encampments and deliver services to those in need.” 

Judge Roslyn Silver, one of the presiding judges over the original decisions, cited that the 8th Amendment prohibited the city from acting on “anti-camping ordinances against homeless persons for the mere act of sleeping outside with rudimentary protection from the elements, or for sleeping in their car at night when there is no other place in the city for them to go.” 

The attorney representing Grants Pass claimed that the 9th Circuit ruling had exacerbated the issue of homeless encampments and pleaded with the court that cities “want to help those in encampments get the services they need while ensuring that our communities remain safe” yet are “hamstrung in responding to public encampments and the drug overdoses, murders, sexual assaults, diseases, and fires that inevitably accompany them.”

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