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Homelessness Case With Local Implications Reaches Supreme Court

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Washington, DC — The US Supreme Court will hear arguments today in a case that impacts the ability of cities and counties to stop people from establishing homeless camps in places like public parks and sidewalks.

The case stems from the small city of Grants Pass, which is located in the mountains of southern Oregon. It has one overnight shelter for adults and a growing number of tents are popping up in its parks. City leaders banned camping and set $295 fines for people illegally doing so. The city is challenging a 2018 law, Boise vs. Martin, where the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled it is unconstitutional to punish people for sleeping outside when there is no available shelter space.

The Boise case has been referenced several times at Tuolumne County Board of Supervisor meetings by leaders as one of the reasons to develop homeless-related programs (and purchase new properties). It also thwarted the City of Sonora’s earlier plans to put in place some form of a camping ban.

Opponents have argued that the Boise case makes it impossible to implement common-sense reforms, while proponents say the protections are necessary given the rising homelessness crisis.

California has an estimated 1/3 of the nation’s homeless population.

After hearing arguments today about the legality of potentially banning homeless camps, the US Supreme Court is anticipated to release a ruling by the end of June.

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