Supreme Court to Decide Whether Cities Can Cite Homeless People for Camping on Street

Supreme Court to Decide Whether Cities Can Cite Homeless People for Camping on Street

A homeless encampment in San Diego, Calif., on Oct. 4, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Micaela Ricaforte

Micaela Ricaforte


Updated: 1/16/2024

The U.S. Supreme Court announced Jan. 12 it will consider whether cities may cite homeless individuals for camping on the street or other public property.
While further details for the Supreme Court’s first hearing have not yet been set, the announcement comes one day after the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals blocked an Oregon city from issuing the citations.
The case originated when the Coalition on Homelessness, a nonprofit headquartered in San Francisco that works to address and combat homelessness, and the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California filed a lawsuit against the city of Grants Pass in September 2022, claiming that the city violated the constitutional rights of its homeless residents.
An injunction was imposed in December 2022 by U.S. District Court Judge Donna Ryu, who ruled that the city cannot remove homeless people from the street who have no reasonable alternative shelter.
However, the city of San Francisco appealed the injunction to the Ninth Circuit in August 2023, saying it was overly broad and hinders officials’ attempts to clear encampments for health and safety reasons.
In a 2-1 vote, the Ninth Circuit Court Jan. 11 upheld the injunction halting the city of Grants Pass’ ability to cite homeless individuals for camping on the street.
An opinion written by Ninth Circuit Judge Lucy Koh said that cities such as Grants Pass and San Francisco had “used a set of laws and practices ... to criminalize sitting, sleeping, or lying in public.”
Judge Koh also said the Ninth Circuit found compelling evidence that homeless people were “forced to move multiple times in a day, from multiple locations, while also being told that they could not move to various alternative locations.”
The Ninth Circuit’s injunction also clarified that the city is only able to issue citations to those who have already turned down offers of shelter, and that when homeless individuals are legally removed from the streets, their property must be identified and stored.
In a response to the Supreme Court’s decision to hear the case’s appeal, California Gov. Gavin Newsom said he hoped the highest court’s decision would free the state to clear the streets and provide services to those who need them.
“California has invested billions to address homelessness, but rulings from the bench have tied the hands of state and local governments to address this issue,” he said in a Jan. 12 statement. “The Supreme Court can now correct course and end the costly delays from lawsuits that have plagued our efforts to clear encampments and deliver services to those in need.”
Micaela Ricaforte

Micaela Ricaforte


Micaela Ricaforte covers education in Southern California for The Epoch Times. In addition to writing, she is passionate about music, books, and coffee.

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