LGBTQ Advocates to SCOTUS: Don’t Let Cities Criminalize Houseless People

April 5, 2024

Now, as the Supreme Court considers Grants Pass v. Johnson, a landmark case poised to determine the rights of people who have no choice but to sleep outside during a housing crisis unprecedented in modern times, a coalition of 46 rights groups are warning that queer people, and youth in particular, face staggering rates of houselessness compared to their population size.

“Homelessness … is really an issue of paramount concern to LGBTQI+ rights advocates because it is a LGBTQI+ rights issue,” said Chinyere Ezie, a senior staff attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights, in an interview. “There is a crisis nationwide of affordability, but there is also a discrimination crisis that is making LGBTQI+ people more vulnerable.”...

“The laws at issue are functionally making it a crime to be homeless, and instead of offering people housing, it’s putting handcuffs on them when they have no choice of where to go,” Ezie said.

However, as cities with skyrocketing housing costs face raging debates and conflicting court rulings over what to do about increasingly visible urban encampments that raise public health concerns, supporters of a crackdown on the houseless are asking the Supreme Court to reverse the Ninth Circuit decision. A reversal would provide cities with sweeping power to pass laws allowing police to clear encampments and punish houseless residents for living in cars and tents, even if they have nowhere else to go.

“It’s certainly likely the impact of any Supreme Court decision will be sweeping in this case,” Ezie said. “There are so many jurisdictions trying to grapple with the affordability crisis and the housing crisis that is accompanying it, and the homelessness that has resulted, and we think it’s critical that the Supreme Court make it clear that criminal punishment — arrests, fines, fees and jails — is not the way for dealing with America’s poor.”

Read the full piece here


Last modified 

April 5, 2024