Supreme Court case on homelessness could have implications for Bay Area cities, experts say

Anser Hassan Image
Saturday, April 20, 2024
SCOTUS homelessness case could have implications for Bay Area: experts
The U.S. Supreme Court will decide if ticketing homeless people is unconstitutional, or if it amounts to cruel and unusual punishment on Monday.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Handcuffs won't fix the homeless problem, say advocates like Jennifer Friedenbach.

"There has never been a situation where a ticket led somebody off the streets," says Jennifer Friedenbach, executive director of Coalition on Homelessness in San Francisco.

On Monday, the United States Supreme Court will hear arguments in the case Grants Pass v. Johnson. The court will decide if ticketing homeless people is unconstitutional. Or, if it amounts to cruel and unusual punishment.

"We don't want to see cities using police and using criminalization and jail as a way to punish homeless people for being homeless," Friedenbach said.

RELATED: Supreme Court to review homelessness case that's been preventing encampment sweeps

If Grants Pass wins, homeless people could face punishment for using a blanket or tent to sleep on streets.

"There are some communities where nothing will change," says Devon Kurtz, director of Public Safety Policy at the Cicero Institute, a think tank focused on domestic policy at the state level.

He makes the distinction between homeless people without a job and those who are simply unhoused. He adds if the supreme court rules in Grants Pass' favor, it would give smaller municipalities more flexibility to address homelessness.

"I think those communities are the ones that you will see the biggest change in. Not necessarily in place like Los Angeles or San Francisco," he said.

MORE: These Bay Area cities, counties received CA homeless encampment cleanup grant funding

Nisha Kashyap is an attorney with the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area. It filed a friend of the court or amicus brief in this case, focused in part on causes of homelessness.

"The ruling from the Supreme Court is not going to change the fact the true solutions to the homelessness are housing," Kashyap said.

Kashyap argues the politicians too often blame the courts for what are really failures of housing policy. She says a Supreme Court ruling won't prevent cities like San Francisco from following through on regulations already on the books.

"The city already has policies that require it to offer shelter to individuals prior to any type of enforcement. To ensure that folks are with services and housing first, instead of criminal enforcement," Kashyap said.

Now Streaming 24/7 Click Here

If you're on the ABC7 News app, click here to watch live