Impact NW rejects Supreme Court’s decision to criminalize homelessness

June 28, 2024

The Supreme Court rendered a devastating setback to human rights today when it gave cities and municipalities the ability to ban camping. I am sure that you join with me in condemning this decision that paves the way for cities to further criminalize unsheltered homelessness.

We all know that our housing system is broken. Rather than address the solution at the root cause, legal decisions like these place blame on the people most-impacted by our broken housing system—people who are disproportionately Melanated-Immigrant. The clear and obvious solution is housing that is affordable and meets the needs of our most-vulnerable neighbors. An abundance of evidence and best practice show us the way. Until we face this reality, laws that criminalize homelessness will create further suffering and trauma.

Most Americans share our position. A new poll from respected housing advocacy organizations reveals that 72% of survey respondents reject jailing, ticketing, and fining people for sleeping outside when no other shelter is available.

In Oregon, we are fortunate that advocates and attorneys have prevented the worst impacts of camping bans. But today’s ruling fuels fears that law enforcement will force people into shelters, whether appropriate for them or not. Forcing people into shelter, as we know well, is a disaster for those who cannot succeed there. Jail is an absolute nightmare solution.

At Impact NW, our Homelessness Prevention Strategy provides evidence-based, cost-effective solutions to ending our housing crisis.We urge lawmakers to use it as a guide in setting law and policy. Meanwhile, all of us at Impact NW remain dedicated to supporting our neighbors who face housing insecurity and to advocating for human-centered law and policy that, as we like to say, puts people first.

-Andy Nelson, Executive Director, ImpactNW