Supreme Court to Review Rulings on Homelessness and Sleeping on Streets in Western US Cities

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court has agreed to review lower-court decisions that make it more difficult for cities in the western United States to regulate homelessness. The court’s decision to hear the appeal comes after recent rulings by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that blocked anti-camping ordinances in San Francisco and restricted the enforcement of local ordinances in Grants Pass, Oregon.

Grants Pass, with the support of California Governor Gavin Newsom and other elected officials, has sought to address the issue of homelessness caused by rising housing costs and income inequality. Meanwhile, the city of San Francisco has also faced similar challenges in dealing with homelessness.

The 9th Circuit’s rulings have implications for nine Western states, including Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington. The court found that punishing people for sleeping on the streets when alternative shelter is unavailable violates the Constitution’s prohibition on “cruel and unusual punishment.”

Advocates for homeless individuals argue that the sweeps and crackdowns on encampments are ineffective and costly, and that the focus should be on increasing access to affordable housing. However, cities have faced pressure from residents to address the growing number of encampments, which are seen as dangerous and unsanitary.

The Supreme Court’s review of these cases could have significant implications for how cities across the country address homelessness. The federal count of homeless people reached 580,000 in 2023, driven by a lack of affordable housing, economic hardships caused by the pandemic, and limited access to mental health and addiction treatment.

Governor Newsom expressed hope that the Supreme Court’s decision would lead to a resolution and allow for the implementation of necessary services to help those in need. However, opponents of the ordinances argue that blaming the judiciary for the homelessness crisis is a distraction from the failure of long-standing policies.

The timing of the Supreme Court’s review is yet to be determined. However, the outcome of these cases is likely to have far-reaching consequences for city policies regarding homelessness.

Overall, the Supreme Court’s decision to review these cases represents a critical milestone in addressing the challenges faced by cities in dealing with homelessness. As cities grapple with rising housing costs and income inequality, the court’s ruling will shape how they balance the rights of homeless individuals with the need to maintain public safety and address concerns raised by residents.

The federal count of homeless people reached 580,000 in 2023, driven by a lack of affordable housing and limited access to necessary services. The Supreme Court’s review of these cases will shape the approach taken by cities across the country in addressing homelessness.