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Indybay Feature
Supreme court won’t revive homeless camping ban
by Vivian Ho in San Francisco
Friday Dec 27th, 2019 2:51 PM
The US supreme court decided on Monday that it will allow homeless people to sleep in public outdoor spaces.
Supreme court won’t revive homeless camping ban

Supreme court declines to review case over homeless people’s right to sleep on streets

Vivian Ho in San Francisco

Mon 16 Dec 2019 10.54 EST

The US supreme court decided on Monday that it will not hear an appeal of a ruling that allows homeless people to sleep in public outdoor spaces, dashing the hopes of some west coast cities and municipalities grappling with a homelessness crisis that it would be overturned.

Several cities, counties, law enforcement groups and business associations had asked the supreme court to revise last year’s ruling in Martin v City of Boise, in which the ninth circuit court of appeals held that it constituted cruel and unusual punishment to enforce criminal laws against homeless people living on the street if a city did not offer enough shelters. It struck down a Boise, Idaho, city ordinance that made it a misdemeanor to camp or sleep on sidewalks or parks without permission – a common quality-of-life ordinance found in most jurisdictions with a sizable homeless population.

The justices on Monday did not comment on the decision.

Advocates for the homeless had lauded the ninth circuit’s decision as humane common sense.

“On a daily basis, we encounter people who are experiencing homelessness in southern California and are being punished by law enforcement for no other reason than they can’t afford a place to live,” said Julia Devanthéry, a staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California. “Criminalizing people for conduct that they cannot help is not a deterrent to that conduct. People will continue that conduct because it cannot be helped.”

Officials argued that they needed to be able to enforce these ordinances and prevent homeless people from sleeping on sidewalks because encampments block walkways and create public health and safety concerns. The decision “takes away an important tool cities have to stop the proliferation of permanent encampments, which undermine cities’ efforts to provide shelter and services to the most vulnerable”, said Theane Evangelis, an attorney for the city of Boise.

“It removes a crucial tool from local governments’ tool belts, making the connection between shelter-resistant homeless and critical services nearly impossible,” the International Downtown Association and various other Los Angeles-based property owner associations wrote in an amicus brief. “As our homeless stay on the streets longer, they are irreparably psychologically and physically affected; crime increases, diseases spread, homelessness becomes entrenched, acts of violence become commonplace, and rampant drug use further compounds the challenges facing the homeless, making it nearly impossible for people to move out of homelessness and gain economic stability. And as we as citizens are forced to sit by and watch it happen, our humanity slips away.”

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