Supreme Court rules in favor of laws targeting homeless encampments

 June 29, 2024

To end the week, the U.S. Supreme Court issued several bombshell rulings, including a much-anticipated decision on clearing homeless encampments.

According to Breitbart, in a case called City of Grants Pass v. Johnson, in a 6--3 decision, the high court ruled that it's not "cruel and unusual punishment" under the Eighth Amendement to have homeless encampents cleared, and to imprison those who repeatedly violate such ordinances.

As the outlet noted, civic leaders in many of America's largest cities, where the homeless crisis has spiraled out of control, were closely watching the case.

The case was named after Grants Pass, Oregon, which has a massive homeless population.

What's going on?

Justice Neil Gorsuch expressed sympathy for homeless people, admitting the issue is complex but ultimately reiterating that laws against sleeping on public property and building encampments were commonplace.

Breitbart noted:

But he noted that laws against encampments were “commonplace,” and said that the Eighth Amendment was a “poor foundation” on which to mount a challenge against them. The right forum in which to debate responses to homelessness was in democratically-elected governments, not in the federal courts.

The decision was monumental, and it erased previous lower court rulings that barred laws against homeless encampments.

Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass, who oversees one of the worst cases of homelessness in her city, wasn't thrilled with the Supreme Court's decision and implied that it could even make it worse.

"Today’s Supreme Court ruling must not be used as an excuse for cities across the country to attempt to arrest their way out of this problem or hide the homelessness crisis in neighboring cities or in jail. Neither will work or save lives," she wrote on X.

Bass has also begged the city's wealthy to donate funds to increase the area of land available for homeless residents and has pushed for a tax increase on funds donated to tackling the crisis. Her approach also includes moving homeless people into hotels, which has been widely criticized.


Not surprisingly, the high court's liberal side dissented on the decision, including Justice Sonya Sotomayor.

"Sleep is a biological necessity, not a crime. For some people, sleeping outside is their only option. The City of Grants Pass jails and fines those people for sleeping anywhere in public at any time, including in their cars, if they use as little as a blanket to keep warm or a rolled-up shirt as a pillow. For people with no access to shelter, that punishes them for being homeless. That is unconscionable and unconstitutional."

Only time will tell if cities with such problems pass new laws to address the homeless crisis within their city limits.

" A free people [claim] their rights, as derived from the laws of nature."
Thomas Jefferson
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