US Supreme Court Gives Local Governments Green Light to be Inhumane

In a 6-3 decision, the US Supreme Court overturned lower court rulings that determined it is cruel and unusual punishment under the Eight Amendment of the US Constitution to fine people for sleeping outside, even if there is no place for them to go. The local ordinance was used to fine people sleeping outside if they had a blanket or a pillow to protect them from the elements. Essentially, the facts demonstrated that the law was used to punish individuals experiencing homelessness with fines that could not be paid by someone with little to no financial means. The lower court rulings determined the Grants Pass law to be in violation of the Eighth Amendment that prohibits cruel and unusual punishment largely due to the fines combined with the fact that those fined did not have a place to go to.

“The decision is one of the most pivotal decisions in decades impacting individuals and families experiencing homelessness. It has given municipalities across the nation the green light to punish homelessness instead of working towards sustainable solutions for economic stability and upward mobility for the most vulnerable among us,” writes Primavera CEO Tisha Tallman.  While stating homelessness is a complex issue, Justice Gorsuch, writing the opinion for the Justices, concludes that the Eighth Amendment “does not authorize federal judges to wrest those rights and responsibilities from the American People and in their place dictate this Nation’s homelessness policy.”

“This decision impacts not only those currently experiencing homelessness, but will similarly impact the millions of Americans on the brink of homelessness. At a time when we are experiencing inflation, decreased affordable housing inventory, and market forces that have driven up rents, now is the time to move towards collaboration and sustainable solutions. We must simultaneously work towards preserving existing affordable housing inventory while making way for additional affordable housing. Some solutions include: increased funding for prevention and intervention; rethinking impediments to affordable housing development such as zoning and permitting; increased funding and incentives for existing aging affordable housing inventory to remain affordable. Governor Hobbs recently signed two laws – the “casita bill” and the “middle housing bill” that move us in the right direction. Similarly, on May 21, Pima County passed an ordinance described as a “transit-oriented development bill” that makes way for affordable housing to be built along transit corridors. This recognizes not only the need for additional housing, but also housing that places people in areas to get to opportunity,” commented Primavera CEO Tisha Tallman.

“Tucson is in a unique situation to move the needle on poverty and homelessness with our strong philanthropy, business, non-profit sector, faith community, and government bodies. I know we will do the right thing and continue to move towards an inclusive community where all can thrive,” concludes Primavera CEO Tisha Tallman. “We have the ability to be a model for other municipalities.”

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