Constitutional Crossroads: Supreme Court’s Decision on Homeless Encampments in California


Supreme Court set to decide if cities can ban homeless encampments - Santa Monica Daily Press

The United States Supreme Court has accepted the responsibility of determining whether homeless individuals possess a constitutional right to camp on public property when lacking alternative shelter. The decision follows appeals from California and other Western states challenging the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals rulings, which deemed it unconstitutional for cities to deny homeless individuals a place to sleep.

Background: 8th Amendment and Robinson vs. California

8th Amendment

Historically, the 8th Amendment’s prohibition of "cruel and unusual punishments" has primarily applied to criminal convictions. Advocates for the homeless refer to the 1962 case, Robinson vs. California, where the Supreme Court declared it cruel and unusual to criminalize narcotics addiction. This precedent was later used by the 9th Circuit in 2006 to strike down a Los Angeles sidewalk ordinance targeting sleeping on the streets.

9th Circuit’s Impact on Homelessness Policies

The 9th Circuit’s 2018 ruling went further, invalidating ordinances in Boise, Idaho, that allowed the arrest or fining of individuals sleeping or camping on public property. The court asserted that the 8th Amendment prohibits punishing involuntary acts or conditions resulting from one’s status.

In Grants Pass, Oregon, a city of 38,000 facing homelessness challenges, a federal judge and 9th Circuit panel annulled the anti-camping ordinance due to insufficient shelter. The decision stated that the city could not enforce such ordinances when homeless individuals had no alternative places to sleep.

Supreme Court’s Role

Public officials in California, including Governor Gavin Newsom and city attorneys from major cities, have urged the Supreme Court to reestablish their authority over public spaces. They argue that the 9th Circuit’s decisions have complicated efforts to address the escalating homelessness crisis, with California hosting half of the nation’s unsheltered population.

The Supreme Court is set to hear arguments in April, with a ruling expected by the end of June. Governor Newsom expressed optimism, stating that the Court’s decision could rectify delays caused by legal challenges in addressing encampments and providing essential services to those in need.

As the Supreme Court prepares to rule on homeless encampments in California, the case holds significant implications for how cities manage homelessness and the constitutional rights of individuals without shelter. The decision could potentially reshape the legal landscape surrounding homelessness policies across the West Coast and beyond.

**Exploring Constitutional Dilemmas: Supreme Court’s Inquiries into Homeless

What was the ruling on the Grants Pass homeless case?

In 2022, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals prohibited Grants Pass from implementing public camping ordinances, citing a violation of the cruel and unusual punishment provision under the U.S. Constitution’s Eighth Amendment. The court maintained that penalizing individuals for camping in public spaces constituted an infringement of their constitutional rights, marking a significant decision with potential implications for how cities address homelessness.

Can homeless live on private property in California?

The choice of permitting or prohibiting homeless encampments on private property lies with the property owner. It is the property owner’s responsibility to secure any necessary permits for the encampment, adhering to regulatory standards outlined in local and state codes. The decision ultimately rests in the hands of the property owner, who holds the authority to determine the presence of homeless individuals on their private property.

How do I report illegal homeless encampment in Los Angeles?

To report unauthorized homeless encampments, as well as illegal storage or dumping of items in Los Angeles, dial 3-1-1 or submit a request online through the official app. For additional information specific to Los Angeles, refer to the LA City Attorney page dedicated to addressing homelessness. Prompt reporting plays a crucial role in the city’s efforts to manage and address such situations effectively.

How do I report homeless in NYC?

If you encounter a situation requiring assistance for a homeless person during a Code Blue, promptly report it by calling 311 or reaching out to 212-NEW-YORK (212-639-9675). Reporting ensures that appropriate aid and support can be directed to individuals in need. Stay engaged with the city’s efforts to address homelessness effectively.

When did Grants Pass become a city?

The Grants Pass post office was founded on March 22, 1865. The city of Grants Pass achieved incorporation in 1887, marking a pivotal moment in its establishment. During the 1920s, the county took significant steps to enhance its tourist facilities, contributing to the city’s development over the years.

What is the new homeless law in California 2023?

The state of California introduced the Homeless Housing, Assistance, and Prevention program in 2023. This initiative aims to offer one-time grant funds to jurisdictions, facilitating regional coordination and enhancing local capacity to address immediate homelessness challenges. The program is guided by a best-practices framework, emphasizing effective strategies to combat homelessness and promote sustainable solutions.

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