Center for Political Awareness

Will the Supreme Court Make Homelessness a Crime?

Unhoused people in Grants Pass were arrested for sleeping outside, but there was nowhere else for them to go.

Photo: Unhoused senior citizens Kim Morris and Kevin Gevas call a homeless advocate from Mint at Tussing Park in Grants Pass, Oregon on Thursday March 28, 2024. Melina Mara/The Washington Post via Getty Images

 

Helen Cruz has been a resident of Grants Pass, Oregon, for roughly four decades, but for the last five of those years, she’s had no home in which to live. She’s not alone. Her small mountain town with a population of 39,189 provides no public homeless shelters. She is among up to 600 people experiencing homelessness in that community.

On Monday, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments about their disputed right to sleep outside. At issue is an effort from 2013, when Grants Pass attempted to address the town’s burgeoning number of unhoused people by fining and subsequently issuing trespass orders with criminal penalties for sleeping in the park with as little as a blanket. By the end of June, the justices will issue a decision on the case that may determine whether their situation of being unhoused with no place to go is a protected constitutional status—or a crime.

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