Wednesday , July 24 2024
Court decision clears way for City to address homeless encampments

Court decision clears way for City to address homeless encampments

The Supreme Court issued a ruling in the case of Grants Pass v Johnson on Friday that cities can enforce bans on homeless people sleeping outdoors, even in localities with insufficient shelter space.

The case is the most consequential to come before the court about the issue in years and coincides with a significant rise in the number of people in the country without a home. The high court struck down a San Francisco-based appeals court ruling that found outdoor sleeping bans amounted to cruel and unusual punishment.

“Homelessness is complex. Its causes are many. So, the public policy responses may be required to address it,” Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote for the majority. “A handful of federal judges cannot begin to ‘match’ the collective wisdom the American people possess in deciding ‘how best to handle’ a pressing social question like homelessness.”

Now, cities like San Bernardino, which have long grappled with rampant homelessness and the social issues it brings, have a chance to reevaluate their policies. This ruling presents an opportunity for these cities to adapt their strategies and potentially improve the situation for both people experiencing homelessness and the community at large. This potential for adaptation should bring optimism to the community.

However, the situation in San Bernardino is complex. The city is currently under a federal court injunction that prevents the removal of homeless persons and their belongings. This injunction was issued in January by Judge Terry Hatter in a case filed by the American Civil Liberties Union, the SoCal Trash Army, and three individuals alleging violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the handling of personal belongings of individuals during an encampment cleanup.

Kim Knauss, who is running for City Council, posted parts of the following to her Instagram account in the wake of the decision: “I am ecstatic to share that the Supreme Court has expanded the city’s power to remove homeless camps. We’ve seen our city struggle with growing encampments that detract from the beauty, health, and safety…We need to get people off the streets. Solutions will take a multifaceted approach.”

The two candidates vying for the Seventh Ward on the council both stated in emails that they supported the ruling but had different takes.  Treasure Ortiz stressed that, “The city needs to put a plan in place to create permanent and temporary housing options with wrap around services because the SC ruling has no effect on us or the injunction currently in place.”

Jim Penman offered a more hardline approach harkening back to his experience as City Attorney, “As San Bernardino’s elected City Attorney from 1987 to 2013, our office kept the homeless situation under control here in SB.  We made sure that homeless camps were taken down within 24 to 48 hours of appearing.” These different perspectives provide a comprehensive view of the issue.

“The question for San Bernardino leaders to weigh is whether the ruling by the Supreme Court allows them to now move forward with renewed efforts to deal with the homeless encampments or does the ruling in the injunction still bind them,” said Micheal O’Neill with the Landmark Legal Foundation.

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