SCOTUS Grants Pass Ruling

by | Jul 11, 2024 | Advocacy, Homelessness, In the News

On Friday June 28, 2024, the US Supreme Court handed down its opinion in City of Grants Pass v. Johnson. By a vote of six to three, the justices empowered municipalities to enforce laws prohibiting sleeping and camping on public land.

Photos courtesy of Hearst Connecticut Media

I’ve included below two articles on the Grants Pass decision, as well as an opinion piece from Sarah Fox, executive director at Connecticut Coalition to End Homelessness.  To add to these perspectives, I’ll note that this ruling is a sad commentary on where we are as a nation.  This court’s decision absolves the government (at all levels) from their responsibility to ensure basic needs for those residing within our borders, while also promoting an enforcement approach over a results-driven and solutions-oriented strategy of compassion.  Empowering municipalities to sweep people away from wherever those municipalities so choose is not merely counterproductive: it puts people at even greater risk of adverse, even deadly, health outcomes, while disconnecting them from essential services and therefore reducing the likelihood of getting them successfully housed.  Like the War on Drugs, encampment clearing is a demonstrably failed policy that exacerbates the public health crisis.

 

What we’re facing in Connecticut

CT advocates decry barriers for unhoused with health needs: ‘A life and death public health crisis’ . . .
By: Cris Villalonga- Vivoni, Staff Writer – New Haven Register

Connecticut’s unhoused population continues to rise as affordable housing options decrease, an already difficult situation exacerbated for people with medical needs that add challenges to finding housing, officials said.

National studies have found that homelessness is associated with higher prevalence of chronic conditions, mental illness and substance use disorder. Being unhoused while also living with a complex medical condition, such as a chronic illness, heightens their risk of death if they remain homeless. Read more . . .

 

Connecticut after Grants Pass v. Johnson

What can Connecticut expect after the Supreme Court’s decision on evicting homeless encampments?
By Mark Zaretsky, Staff Writer – New Haven Register

A U.S. Supreme Court decision that found cities have broad power to evict people from encampments and confiscate their property is unlikely to affect life for unhoused people in Connecticut, local advocates and government officials across the state said.

But the June 28 ruling — which affects more than 650,000 people experiencing homelessness, according to the federal government — represents a new low for a government that should be doing everything it can to help people who need it, not criminalize them for being poor or mentally ill, several advocates said.

“It really gets to me that they’re treating homelessness as a crime rather than a condition,” said the Rev. Sara Smith, who has spent 15 years fighting homelessness in Bridgeport.

The controversial ruling overturned a California-based appeals court’s previous ruling in a case involving Grants Pass, a city of 39,000 in southwest Oregon that has just one homeless shelter. It cleared the way for cities to enforce bans on unhoused people sleeping outside in public places. Read more . . . 

 

Opinion: Arresting people is not the solution to homelessness

By Sarah Fox, Chief Executive Officer, Connecticut Coalition to End Homelessness

 

The solution to hunger is food, and the solution to homelessness is homes. The solution is emphatically not arresting people who sleep outside when they have nowhere else to go.

The June 30 Supreme Court decision, City of Grants Pass v. Johnson, says that people who are unhoused can be arrested for resting outside, pushing efforts to solve homelessness a giant step back.

The decision will have nationwide impact by giving cities and states the right to punish people for sleeping outdoors. We know that this will harm unhoused community members and subject people to violence, destruction of personal property, and adverse health outcomes, in addition to saddling them with unneeded fines.

For years, Connecticut has been at the forefront in solving homelessness. Through a multitude of governors and presidential administrations, the Nutmeg State has made incredible strides to find permanent housing for all its residents. Read more . . . 

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