Supreme Court to rule on legality of punishing homeless people with nowhere to go

On April 22, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the case of Grants Pass v. Johnson, which could significantly impact the rights of people experiencing homelessness. The case hinges on whether it constitutes cruel and unusual punishment to fine, ticket, or jail someone for sleeping outside on public property when they have no other place to go.

A ruling in favor of the plaintiffs would pave the way for communities to crackdown on homeless people's tent encampments, even in the absence of adequate housing or shelter. While a decision is yet to be made, the ruling could contribute to wider systemic issues affecting the unhoused population, including lack of affordable housing, insufficient healthcare, and inadequate social services.

Approximately 650,000 people experience homelessness in the United States on any given night, with roughly 40% having no place to live other than the streets, cars, parks, train stations, and other places not designed for habitation.

The case has broader implications for how local governments address the rising number of people experiencing homelessness and the role of law enforcement in policing them. Communities should instead invest in constructing more housing and shelters, implementing supportive services and rental assistance programs to prevent households from becoming homeless.

The ruling, which is expected to come down in the next few months, could significantly impact cities and counties across the country and worsen the already pressing problem of homelessness.

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