As LA struggles with homelessness, Supreme Court looks at right to sleep on sidewalks

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- There are thousands of people living on the streets and the U.S. Supreme Court is considering whether they have a right to be there.

Steve Acosta who is homeless says "I don't think so." But he also believes cities should provide enough shelters.

Machima Dunzel who is also homeless says "People should be able to sleep wherever they want or wherever they need to sleep."

This all started with an ordinance in Boise, Idaho that made it a misdemeanor to camp on sidewalks. The 9th Circuit Court ruled the city couldn't do that if there aren't enough shelters as an alternative.

The Rev. Andy Bales runs the Union Rescue Mission.

"The key phrase in that is 'If there is nowhere to go.' You cannot sweep people off the streets," says Bales

In Los Angeles County three-quarters of the nearly 60,000 homeless people are unsheltered.

And most of those - two out of three - are in tents, makeshift shelters or on the street.

But the concern for some cities is the ruling doesn't make it clear what can and can't be enforced.

Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer says "We need to strike a delicate balance. We need to be very humane and treat people with respect but I also disagree with the advocates who say that homeless people should be able to sleep anywhere they darn well please."

Feuer and others have asked the Supreme Court to intervene.

"Boise raises the specter of the possibility that for Los Angeles to enforce its rules on sidewalks we would have to have a daily count of how many homeless people there are and compare that to the number of homeless beds that we have."

Bales says "Why has Boise and why even LA has joined in to remove people from the street rather than provide places for people to go"?

We likely won't know for several weeks if the Supreme Court has decided to take up this case.
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