Supreme Court agreed to hear a case on homelessness

Source: 1/12/24

The Supreme Court agreed on Friday to decide whether an Oregon city can enforce its ban on public camping against homeless people. The announcement came as part of a short list of orders released from the justices’ private conference earlier in the day adding five new cases to the court’s merits docket.

The court’s ruling in City of Grants Pass v. Johnson could affect how other cities address their own epidemics of homelessness. San Francisco, which spent over $672 million during the last fiscal year to provide shelter and housing to people experiencing homelessness, told the justices in a “friend of the court” brief that its inability to enforce its own laws “has made it more difficult to provide services” to those people.

The question is one that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, based in San Francisco, has grappled with repeatedly in recent years. In Martin v. City of Boise, the court of appeals held that punishing homeless people for public camping would violate the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment if they did not have access to shelter elsewhere. The court of appeals reasoned that, just as the city could not punish someone for their status – being homeless – it also could not punish them for conduct “that is an unavoidable consequence of being homeless.”

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Something that might be of benefit to us

This case is very relevant to registrants, because they face a much higher percentage of homelessness than the general population. But being homeless also puts them at a higher risk of FTR since state registry laws require them to check in more often. And it’s easy to miss an appointment when your homeless. It’s bad enough being unsheltered as a non-registrant in your country of birth, and these locales still make excuses about not even being able to provide a simple bed in a shelter. They rather push these people out of town into big cities like San Francisco.

This State Dept vs Munoz case, in the same article, is interesting. The State Dept denied a visa to the husband of a US citizen who sponsored him. Sound familiar? Evidently, the husband was suspected of gang ties in El Salvador. So the State Dept had issues with the person being sponsored, instead of issues with the sponsor themselves as is the case of registered “sex offenders.” The State Dept has so far been winning in the lower courts, but there’s no telling what SCOTUS will do. They could support the State Dept’s policy against sponsoring suspected gangbangers, or the Trump appointees can use the opportunity to give the Biden State Dept a black eye. It will be interesting.

This case is an interesting conundrum. The homeless need a place to sleep but the general public need to have safe access to their parks and public lands. Where I live the homeless are a problem and the police have a homeless unit that is used to direct homeless people to places where they can obtain services, such as the location of the soup kitchen and the adjacent homeless shelter and to make sure that no homeless encampments are created within the city limits. Recently, I saw a city crew removing one such small encampment, likely after arresting the inhabitants for trespassing on either city or state property. The city has also posted anti-panhandling signs at common panhandling places around town encouraging drivers to avoid giving a handout. The signs get vandalized and stolen but are restored soon enough.

Homeless people are a great social problem for our society but the are also, in the end, a greater public safety issue because homeless encampments breed criminal behavior that spreads out into the outside community. I have a suspicion that the Supreme Court is going to say that the need for public safety and order trumps the Eighth Amendment when it comes to the homeless. It would be an unfortunate decision for the homeless but it would also be the right choice despite my deep compassion and pity for the homeless and their plight.

The homeless population here in LA county is bad. If you go on the registry and look up sex offenders in LA county you’ll see 50% of them are homeless.
It’s crazy what PFR go through on a daily basis. Being on the registry literally puts u in the same category as parolees, drug addicts and homeless people. The sad part is they get to move on wit their lives we don’t, We’re stuck in this lifestyle until we can find another place to live and when we do, we face another problem vigilantes and people in the community.

As one who has worked with the homeless previously, many of those were addicts of drugs and alcohol for whatever reason(s). Their homelessness may have started because they could not find a home or work or could be because they had mental issues that spiraled worse from whatever started it from (many military vets will be in this category). Some dealt with it all by turning to drugs and alcohol after it started and some got there because of drugs and alcohol to begin with. Some were because they got kicked out of their home for whatever reason. Some, frankly, just don’t want to be responsible and would rather be homeless to let others care for them. And, yes, some homelessness is the result of legal situations where society does not care about them regardless of having paid their debt to society, e.g., PFRs. Homelessness is the result of many different things. It is only getting worse and will continue to.

Homelessness has always been around and dealt with differently (see the Bible). Beggars are many times homeless, but were not termed that back in the day. There are those who are professional beggars “flying the cardboard” we would say to see how much they can make by fooling those who donate to them. Some would make a decent amount in one year to live on or buy enough drugs to compensate for their condition. Many times you will see signs to not give to them but direct them to services.

Homelessness breeds homeless camps that are swept up when they are in areas they should not be. There are teams of people who work with them at service organizations and on the street to get them there, e.g., homeless outreach teams. Homeless camps breed crime within them that spread, as well as worse drug and alcohol abuse, and many times, local communities of illness, whatever it may be.

This case will be interesting in it has been ruled, IIRC, you cannot punish someone for being homeless, but you can where they practice being homeless. People who were once homeless are being pushed back out of places they lived to being homeless by elected officials campaigns to rid the area of homelessness. Homeless pushing out former homeless who then become homeless again by those who are no longer homeless. It is a shell game and self-licking ice cream cone. Of course, there are those who are so mentally ill they don’t want help or can’t cope with help, but live as they do until they pass away.

But, these new homeless are getting money for cell phones, clothing, food, and shelter while others are scraping by to make ends meet. You will see the dynamics of those who make up the homeless population today change, if you have not already. With the influx of those crossing the border illegally, who are receiving so much of the support those here in the country want, you will see them flying the cardboard, if you have not already. I know I have seen the dynamics change in the last six months of those who are begging.

The homeless problem of today is not the homeless problem of yesterday. It is this country’s own doing that it has the issues related to homelessness it has. No politician or legal judge/justice is going to have a solution for it that is 100% effective or even a smaller percentage effective. You cannot make someone stay in a homeless recovery center if they don’t want, but you can punish them (which is relative) if they want to live off the grid doing their own things peacefully while bothering no one out of sight, out of mind.

Here is a pretty good research paper just released in North Western University Law Review,
Sentence Served And No Place To Go: An Eighth Amendment Analysis Of “Dead Time” Incarceration by Christopher B. Scheren

Using the same two cases Powell versus Texas and Robertson versus California that say it’s cruel and unusual to constantly keep registrants past their sentence date. If there’s no place to go, you could also correlate that with residency restrictions.