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Home | Newsroom | Housing | Western Center on Law & Poverty condemns the Grant’s Pass Supreme Court Decision, demands major federal funding to solve homelessness

Western Center on Law & Poverty condemns the Grant’s Pass Supreme Court Decision, demands major federal funding to solve homelessness

Western Center on Law & Poverty condemns the Grant’s Pass Supreme Court Decision, demands major federal funding to solve homelessness

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — In a profoundly disappointing decision, the U.S. Supreme Court today ruled that local governments are permitted by the U S constitution to arrest or fine homeless individuals for using survival items like blankets or pillows in public spaces when no alternative shelter is available

“Arresting or fining people for trying to survive is expensive, counterproductive, and cruel,” said Jesse Rabinowitz, campaign and communications director at the National Homelessness Law Center (NHLC). “This inhumane ruling, which contradicts the values of nearly three-quarters of Americans, will make homelessness worse in Grants Pass and nationwide. Cities are now even more empowered to neglect proven housing-based solutions and to arrest or fine those with no choice but to sleep outdoors. While we are disappointed, we are not surprised that this Supreme Court ruled against the interests of our poorest neighbors.”

“The ongoing criminalization and stigmatization of the unhoused does not truly address the problem,” said Brandon Greene, the Director of Policy Advocacy for the Western Center on Law & Poverty. “This sits in stark contrast to what housing advocates and social science researchers know to be effective. The deeper issue is the housing affordability crisis gripping our state, and throughout the country, which we call on governments at levels to address.”

Greene also acknowledged the pernicious impact  this ruling will have on communities of color, who are disproportionately represented among unhoused populations. “Black Americans are often targeted merely for being present in public spaces – viewed as a threat simply for existing,” he added. “Combined with the legacy of other discriminatory systemic policies, these approaches to homelessness have historical undertones and direct parallels to anti-vagrancy laws and segregationist policy wherein people of color were excluded from public spaces and accommodations.”

“Despite the setback, the National Homelessness Law Center finds strength in the compelling dissent by Justice Sotomayor, which aligns with our long-held belief that no one should be punished for sleeping outside, especially when they have no other options. While we are enraged, we are now even more committed to ensuring that everybody has a safe place to call home,” added Rabinowitz.

In response to the Supreme Court’s decision, the Western Center on Law & Poverty calls on the Biden administration and Congress to invest at least $356 billion in the next year with continued funding in future years to ensure that everybody has safe, decent housing that they can afford. Specifically, we call for full funding of:

  • Universal rental assistance for lowest-income households
  • Public housing repair and preservation
  • National Housing Trust Fund
  • Eviction and homelessness prevention
  • Voluntary supportive and emergency services

The Western Center on Law & Poverty extends its gratitude to the thousands of nationwide advocates who mobilized around this landmark case, rallied with us during oral arguments at the Supreme Court, and signed the 42 amicus briefs in support of homeless rights. Despite this Supreme Court ruling, we know that housing, not handcuffs, solves homelessness, and we will continue our work to ensure that everyone, regardless of race or background, has the housing they need to thrive.

About the Western Center on Law & Poverty

Through the lens of economic and racial justice, Western Center on Law & Poverty litigates, educates, and advocates in courts, cities, counties, the State Capital, and the public arena to secure just housing, health care, economy, and legal systems for Californians with low incomes.

About the National Homelessness Law Center

The National Homelessness Law Center is committed to protecting the rights of unhoused people across the United States and to advocating for policies that prevent and end homelessness, ensuring that all people have access to safe and adequate housing.

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