Actions

Supreme Court rules cities can ban homeless encampments

The high court's ruling essentially rejects arguments that banning homeless encampments went against the Constitution.
California Governor-Homelessness
Posted at 9:06 AM, Jun 28, 2024

The Supreme Court ruled on Friday that cities can penalize the homeless for sleeping outdoors, by upholding a law banning homeless encampments.

The 6-3 decision stemmed from the case of Grants Pass v. G. Johnson, after the Oregon town of Grants Pass started fining people nearly $300 for sleeping outside. If not paid, that fine would increase to $537.60, and multiple citations could expose the individual to criminal trespass charges — which could lead to a heftier fine and jail time.

"The enforcement of generally applicable laws regulating camping on public property does not constitute 'cruel and unusual punishment' prohibited by the Eighth Amendment," the Supreme Court said in its decision.

The city had previously argued it relied on "camping laws" — which bar the use of blankets, pillows or cardboard boxes for protection — to protect its community.

But a lower court had ruled against the town, saying it was cruel and unusual punishment since it didn't have enough shelter beds to house the individuals.

The high court's ruling essentially rejects arguments that banning homeless encampments went against the Constitution.

The case is the most significant to come before the Supreme Court in decades on this issue, and also comes at as a time when there's a rising number of people in the U.S. without a permanent place to live.

Last year, the total number of people experiencing homelessness increased by 12%, according to a report by the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Chief Justice John Roberts said the Supreme Court will issue its last opinions of the term on Monday.