Chicago/ Politics & Govt
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Published on April 22, 2024
High Court to Rule on Homelessness and Outdoor Sleeping Bans amidst Rising CrisisSource: Unsplash / {Nathan Dumlao}

The Supreme Court is set to make a crucial decision on whether bans on outdoor sleeping for the homeless are in violation of the Constitution when no shelter space is available. The high court's ruling, expected by the end of June, could shape the national approach to a homelessness crisis that, according to federal data reported by Fox32Chicago, is rising to its highest levels ever in the U.S. with a 12% increase.

Arguments on the contentious issue were heard by SCOTUS on Monday. The case, which is considered among the most critical the court has heard in years regarding homelessness, emanates from the rural town of Grants Pass, Oregon, which had been issuing fines of $295 for outdoor sleeping as a measure to manage homeless encampments, as reported by the Fox32Chicago. The rising cost of housing has forced many into these public spaces.

In regions like California and other Western states, it has already been deemed unconstitutional by lower courts to penalize individuals for sleeping in homeless encampments when there’s no alternative shelter. This legal precedent puts the Justice Department and advocacy groups on a united front, asserting that cities should not punish those without a place to stay, a statement supported by various reports, including one from the Associated Press. Increasingly, these groups argue that making homelessness a punishable offense only exacerbates the issue.

However, this stance faces opposition from officials across the political spectrum who argue for the need to control encampments, which can present hazardous and unsanitary conditions. The Associated Press noted that a deadlock persists, where both Democratic and Republican officials find the growing crisis challenging to manage, especially as housing costs continue to climb. Hundreds of advocacy organizations counterargue, claiming punitive measures taken against the homeless only serve to intensify an already dire situation.