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Moving Forward After the Supreme Court Decision

Tuesday, July 2, 2024

This publication is part two of a series of blog posts dedicated to outline the impacts and consequences of the Supreme Court’s recent ruling in the case of City of Grants Pass, OR, v Johnson. Read part one here.
The Supreme Court recently made its ruling in the case of City of Grants Pass, Oregon v. Johnson. By a vote of 6-3, they decided that the enforcement of laws that are applicable to everyone that regulate camping on public property does not constitute “cruel and unusual punishment” prohibited by the Eighth Amendment.

In Justice Gorsuch’s opinion, he wrote that public-camping ordinances do not criminalize status, as they prohibit the actions taken by any person: whether they are experiencing homelessness, a backpacker on vacation, or a student choosing to protest on the lawn of a municipal building.

But we know all too well that laws don’t apply to everyone equally in this country. One only needs to look at this nation’s long history of displacing marginalized communities from public places to understand this: from the displacement of Indigenous people from their ancestral lands, to the sundown towns where Black people and other marginalized groups were criminalized in an effort to restore the community’s whiteness. We are the same nation that created internment camps for people of Japanese descent during World War II and who currently have elected officials and candidates talking about using these same types of camps for people experiencing homelessness. While the ruling may not surprise those of us in the homeless services field, we must not be complacent just because it is what we may have expected.

Using Our Collective Voices

At the Alliance, we have been watching with alarm over the last few years as more and more elected officials choose to pursue strategies like camping bans and other efforts that would result in arresting, fining, and ticketing people experiencing homelessness. Although the Supreme Court’s decision does not automatically criminalize homelessness, it does bolster those who have chosen this path and will give permission to those who have wanted to pursue such approaches but have been worried about lawsuits. And because homelessness disproportionately impacts people of color, people of color will continue to face interactions with the criminal legal system at higher rates because of this ruling.

Undoubtedly our collective work to prevent and end homelessness using evidence-based and person-centered approaches has gotten harder—but we will not be defeated in our pursuit of housing justice. We, as an entire field, must leverage this moment and use our collective voices and power to promote solutions and strategies that work, while acknowledging that there is no one-size-fits-all response for every community.

This is hard work, but it is necessary work. Now is the time to put our elected officials at every level of government on notice and hold them accountable. With more than 18,000 people becoming homeless for the first time each week—many of them adults over the age of 55— it is time for a reckoning in this country. People become homeless because of the choices of our leaders, not the choices of the individuals who become homeless. Homelessness is a policy choice. Solving homelessness is too.

What We Do Next

We must take every opportunity to demand that elected leaders at all levels of government to invest in each of the following:

Increased housing affordability and availability
Continued (and even more robust) investment in our nation’s targeted homelessness assistance programs, AND  
Increased access to the culturally appropriate health and behavioral health services that people need to thrive

To prepare for the fight ahead, please take the following steps:

Make sure that you are signed up for the Alliance’s Advocacy Alerts.
Reach out to your lawmakers TODAY and ask them to sign on to this letter to President Biden urging the Administration to take immediate actions to combat harmful laws.
Check out our resources on advocating to your lawmakers.
Learn about effective advocacy strategies that are being used to combat harmful state-initiated legislation.
Stay up-to-date on the Alliances policy updates.
Share these resources with your network and ask them to do the same!

The Alliance stands in solidarity with you in the fight ahead.

“Do not get lost in a sea of despair. Be hopeful, be optimistic. Our struggle is not the struggle of a day, a week, a month, or a year, it is the struggle of a lifetime. Never, ever be afraid to make some noise and get in good trouble, necessary trouble.”

– John Lewis

The post Moving Forward After the Supreme Court Decision appeared first on National Alliance to End Homelessness.

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