Local Progress Condemns Cruel Supreme Court Decision in Grants Pass v. Johnson

In response to the Supreme Court’s decision in Grants Pass v. Johnson, Local Progress put out the following statement:

“We are immensely disappointed by the Supreme Court’s decision holding that the U.S. Constitution does not protect homeless people against cruel and unusual punishment, even when they have no choice but to sleep in public using things like blankets or pillows. We are in the midst of a catastrophic housing crisis where rents are soaring and people are struggling to stay in their homes. Millions of people in the United States are just one paycheck away from homelessness, and the cruelty of this decision will only make life harder for people who are forced to survive outside. Despite claims from the Supreme Court, this does nothing to make our jobs as local elected officials easier. This will only break trust between us and the communities we serve and make it more difficult for us to address homelessness.

As local elected officials,  it is our responsibility to make sure that everyone in our communities has a safe, stable home. Putting people in jail or fining them for trying to survive outside is ignoring the failures of our society that puts people on the streets. It dehumanizes our neighbors, is ineffective at solving the root causes of homelessness, breaks trust between people and local government, and traumatizes and traps people in cycles of incarceration. The only humane and effective way to address homelessness is to make sure that everyone has a place to call home. 

As Justice Sotomayor wrote in her dissent, “Sleep is a biological necessity, not a crime. For some people, sleeping outside is their only option. The City of Grants Pass jails and fines those people for sleeping anywhere in public at any time, including in their cars, if they use as little as a blanket to keep warm or a rolled-up shirt as a pillow. For people with no access to shelter, that punishes them for being homeless. That is unconscionable and unconstitutional. Punishing people for their status is ‘cruel and unusual’ under the Eighth Amendment” (emphasis added). 

Despite this ruling, we recommit to the work ahead. Hundreds of thousands of our neighbors across the country will go to bed tonight without a roof over their heads, and some of them will be punished for it. It is more important than ever that we fight for permanent housing to bring people out of homelessness; services to support newly rehoused people like case management and income counseling; preventative measures like rent stabilization and tenant protections to prevent people from becoming homeless; wage increases and worker protections to make sure everyone can afford a place to live; and support from state and federal governments to fully address this national crisis.”