Supreme Court To Rule on Whether US Cities Are Permitted To Enforce Laws Against Homelessness

( — The Supreme Court last Friday agreed to review rulings made by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals making it harder for Western US cities to prevent homeless people from sleeping on the streets when there isn’t enough space in homeless shelters, the Associated Press reported.

The Court will hear an appeal from officials from Grants Pass, Oregon, that has the support of California Governor Gavin Newsom and other elected officials struggling to deal with the homeless crisis.

Last Thursday, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court ruling that blocked anti-camping ordinances in San Francisco. In a separate case in 2022, a 9th Circuit panel ruled that Grants Pass could not enforce ordinances prohibiting homeless people from setting up makeshift shelters, a ruling that applied to all nine western states, including Alaska and Hawaii.

Elected officials in the western states have urged the Supreme Court to hear the appeal, arguing that the rulings by the 9th Circuit have complicated efforts to clear homeless encampments in their cities.

In a statement last Friday, Newsom welcomed the Supreme Court’s decision to hear the case, saying the high court could “correct course and end the costly delays from lawsuits” plaguing California’s efforts to clear homeless encampments.

Theane Evangelis, the attorney representing the city of Grants Pass, said the 9th Circuit’s decisions harm “the very people they purport to protect.”

Attorney Ed Johnson, who represented a group of homeless people who challenged the ordinances in Grants Pass, argued that the attempts to clear the streets of homeless encampments are cruel and punish the homeless. He said in a statement that elected officials are blaming the 9th Circuit for the current homeless crisis as a way to “distract the public and deflect blame.”

According to data reviewed by the Associated Press, cities throughout the United States have increased efforts to clear homeless encampments. However, the efforts have done little to reduce the number of encampments popping up in parks, along sidewalks, and near freeway off-ramps.

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