January 16, 2024, Washington, D.C. — On Friday, January 12, the United States Supreme Court announced it would hear the case of the City of Grants Pass, Oregon v. Johnson, the first major case on homelessness to be heard by the Supreme Court since the 1980s. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit had previously held in the case of Martin v. Boise that cities cannot fine, ticket, arrest, or otherwise punish people experiencing homelessness for sleeping on public property when no shelter is available, which constitutes cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment. In response to this development, the National Alliance to End Homelessness today provided the following statement:
“The Supreme Court’s decision to hear the case of Grants Pass v. Johnson comes amidst a growing wave of criminalization across the nation, with efforts at the federal, state, and local levels threatening people experiencing homelessness’ civil rights and dignity.
Should the lower court standards remain, the case will reinforce the humanity of our most vulnerable residents. It will make clear the responsibility of elected officials at the federal, state, and local levels to produce sufficient permanent housing solutions and shelter accommodations for every person in their communities who needs them.
Should this standard be overturned, however, it will provide a pass for elected officials who choose fining and arresting people over providing evidence-based solutions for people who have nowhere else to go. These practices are harmful to people experiencing homelessness, costly to communities, burdensome on law enforcement, and wholly ineffective at ending homelessness. Elected officials at the local, state, and federal levels have many possible tools to help them address the crisis of unsheltered homelessness. Arresting and fining vulnerable people should not be the focus when we know what works.
Communities are safer and stronger when everyone has a safe place to call home. The Alliance will be watching this case closely in hopes that it brings a much-needed focus on evidence-based solutions to homelessness – like low barrier shelter, affordable housing, and services – so that local, state and federal government decision-makers act with urgency to strengthen the social safety net and appropriately fund affordable housing resources.”
The Alliance intends to submit an amicus brief before oral arguments begin in April.
About the National Alliance to End Homelessness
The National Alliance to End Homelessness is a nonprofit, non-partisan, organization committed to preventing and ending homelessness in the United States. As a leading voice on the issue of homelessness, the Alliance analyzes policy and develops pragmatic, cost-effective policy solutions; works collaboratively with the public, private, and nonprofit sectors to build state and local capacity; and provides data and research to policymakers and elected officials in order to inform policy debates and educate the public and opinion leaders nationwide.