It's a victory for homeless advocates on the West Coast, who say criminalizing homelessness is cruel and ineffective.
- The Supreme Court let stand a ruling from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which deemed homeless anti-camping laws unconstitutional.
- Opponents of the ruling argue that local governments need more power to manage homeless populations, which are growing, especially on the West Coast.
- Homeless advocates argue that criminalizing homelessness does not solve the root issue.
Image source: The Washington Post / Contributor<p>"I think a lot of jurisdictions were hoping that the Supreme Court would enable a much greater level of enforcement activity around the unsheltered homeless, and that won't be the case," said Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg, who is co-chair of California's task force on homelessness.</p><p>Homeless advocates hope the ruling will spur governments to create more shelters and housing programs.</p>
Image source: Portland Press Herald / Contributor<p>"Our hope is that communities won't be nickel-and-diming this decision and figuring out the bare minimum so they can be legally compliant," <a href="https://www.kpvi.com/news/national_news/supreme-court-leaves-cities-with-only-one-option-on-homelessness/article_3a5c0d75-5bf4-5868-a94a-16e75c0efa18.html" target="_blank">said</a> Eric Tars, an attorney with the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty, who represented several plaintiffs in the initial Boise case. "We hope they take this opportunity to alter a completely unsuccessful way of dealing with homelessness."</p><p>But opponents of the ruling claim it leaves governments unable to manage a public safety problem.</p><p>In court documents, lawyers for Boise said: "Public encampments, now protected by the Constitution under the Ninth Circuit's decision, have spawned crime and violence, incubated disease, and created environmental hazards that threaten the lives and well-being both of those living on the streets and the public at large."</p>
Image source: Smith Collection / Gado<p>It's unclear exactly how cities covered by the 9th Circuit Court will change their approach to managing the homeless population. Las Vegas, for example, recently passed a law that makes it illegal to sleep on downtown streets only if there are beds available at local shelters.</p><p>What's uncontroversial in this case is the fact that homelessness, especially on the West Coast, is a significant problem. In Los Angeles County, as many as 60,000 people are homeless on any given night in 2019, according to the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority. In San Francisco, the homeless population has soared by <a href="https://abc7news.com/society/homeless-population-history-in-bay-area/5260657/" target="_blank">30 percent since 2017</a>. Sacramento <a href="https://www.sacbee.com/news/local/homeless/article231944253.html" target="_blank">reported</a> this summer that its homeless population is the highest on record. And across the U.S., about 500,000 people go homeless each night.</p><p>As more American cities are starting to pass anti-camping ordinances, homeless advocates argue that these kinds of laws fail to effectively address the root issue.</p><p>"Housing, not handcuffs, is what ends homelessness," Maria Foscarinis, executive director of the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty, told <a href="https://www.npr.org/2019/12/16/788435163/supreme-court-wont-hear-case-to-ticket-homeless-for-sleeping-in-public-spaces" target="_blank" style="">NPR</a>.</p>
An economist's outside-the-box new idea to level the American playing field
- An economist has proposed giving every child born in America up to $60,000 in a trust fund.
- Inequality is locked-in with the current system in which wealth is largely inherited.
- A "reverse social security" to promote Americans' security and well-being.