Supreme Court taking up case on homelessness that could impact SoCal cities

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Monday, April 22, 2024
SCOTUS homelessness case could have implications for Bay Area: experts
The U.S. Supreme Court will decide if ticketing homeless people is unconstitutional, or if it amounts to cruel and unusual punishment on Monday.

On Monday, the United States Supreme Court will hear arguments in a case that centers around the issue of whether cities can issue tickets to homeless people, or whether such a practice is cruel and unusual punishment.

The case is Grants Pass v. Johnson. If Grants Pass wins, homeless people could face punishment for using a blanket or tent to sleep on streets.

Experts say, however, the decision is likely to have more of an impact on smaller cities.

"There are some communities where nothing will change," says Devon Kurtz, director of public safety policy at the Cicero Institute, a think tank focused on domestic policy at the state level.

He makes the distinction between homeless people without a job and those who are simply unhoused. He adds if the Supreme Court rules in Grants Pass' favor, it would give smaller municipalities more flexibility to address homelessness.

"I think those communities are the ones that you will see the biggest change in. Not necessarily in place like Los Angeles or San Francisco," he said.

Nisha Kashyap is an attorney with the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area. The organization filed a friend of the court brief in this case, focused in part on causes of homelessness.

"The ruling from the Supreme Court is not going to change the fact the true solutions to the homelessness are housing," Kashyap said.

Kashyap argues the politicians too often blame the courts for what are really failures of housing policy. She says a Supreme Court ruling won't prevent cities like San Francisco from following through on regulations already on the books.

"The city already has policies that require it to offer shelter to individuals prior to any type of enforcement. To ensure that folks are with services and housing first, instead of criminal enforcement," Kashyap said.