Supreme Court will hear consequential homeless encampments case

 April 20, 2024

The justices of the U.S. Supreme Court are getting ready to hear a case that could have a big impact on homeless individuals across the country. 

CBS News reports that the justices are scheduled to hear oral arguments in the case on Monday, April 22, 2024.

The Associated Press refers to this case as "the most significant case in decades on homelessness."

Read on to understand why.

The case

The overarching question in this case is whether laws that punish homeless people for camping on public property are allowed under the U.S. Constitution.

"The dispute involves whether laws that punish homeless people with civil citations for camping on public property are outside the bounds of the Constitution," CBS News reports.

Among other things, the justices are expected to consider what forms of punishment for these homeless people are acceptable under the Constitution and what forms violate the Constitution's "cruel and unusual punishment" clause.

"The justices on Monday will consider a challenge to rulings from a California-based appeals court that found punishing people for sleeping outside when shelter space is lacking amounts to unconstitutional cruel and unusual punishment," the Associated Press reports.

The specific case that the justices will hear comes from Oregon. There, in Grants Pass, the city banned homeless encampments and has fined individuals $295 for sleeping in its parks.

"The most significant case in decades . . ."

There are multiple reasons why many consider this the most significant case in decades regarding the homeless problem.

Chief among them is the fact that America is currently witnessing record levels of homelessness, meaning that the Supreme Court's ruling in the case could have an impact on homeless populations throughout the country.

CBS highlights the magnitude of the problem, reporting:

There were 256,000 unsheltered people in the U.S. on a given night in 2023, according to a December report from the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Homelessness rose 12% from 2022 to 2023, its highest level since tracking began in 2007, the report found, as housing prices soared and pandemic-era assistance programs expired.

The problem has gotten so out of control in some parts of the country that even some Democratic officials have been forced to take action.

If the Supreme Court rules that punishments go too far, this may only exacerbate America's homelessness problem. But, if the Supreme Court allows a wide range of punishments, then this could give local officials the tools that they need to get the problem under control.

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