Supreme Court Rules Laws Can Keep Homeless from Sleeping on Public Property

Craig Bannister | June 28, 2024

On Friday, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling that ordinances prohibiting homeless people from sleeping on public property are constitutional.

“The United States Supreme Court is ruling in favor of the City of Grants Pass [Oregon] today in a case that challenged its public spaces camping ordinances,” local station KDRV in Grants Pass reports. The decision overrules a lower court’s ruling that banning homeless from sleeping on public property constitutes unconstitutional “cruel and unusual punishment” explains:

“The case came from Grants Pass, which appealed a ruling striking down local ordinances that fined people $295 for sleeping outside after tents began crowding public parks. The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which has jurisdiction over the nine Western states, has held since 2018 that such bans violate the Eighth Amendment in areas where there aren’t enough shelter beds.”

In the City of Grants Pass v. Johnson, a majority opinion by Justice Neil Gorsuch writes that it is up to “the collective wisdom of the American people – not “a handful of federal judges” to decide how to deal with such issues:

"Yes, people will disagree over which policy responses are best; they may experiment with one set of approaches only to find later another set works better; they may find certain responses more appropriate for some communities than others. But in our democracy, that is their right. Nor can a handful of federal judges begin to 'match' the collective wisdom the American people possess in deciding ‘how best to handle’ a pressing social question like homelessness. Robinson, 370 U. S., at 689"