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Examining the constitutional implications of Oregon homelessness

On Behalf of | Apr 15, 2024 | Post-Conviction Relief |

The case of Grants Pass v. Johnson has emerged as a pivotal legal battle that has reached the United States Supreme Court. The case originated from a dispute over restrictions on outdoor sleeping and has sparked a constitutional debate on homelessness.

Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals had previously deemed Grants Pass’ ordinance banning outdoor sleeping as a violation of the Eighth Amendment. The appeals court equated the ban to cruel and unusual punishment. Now, as the case enters the highest court, the debate intensifies.

The ACLU’s take

The ACLU, along with affiliates in 18 states, have filed a friend-of-the-court brief, which argues that penalizing individuals for sleeping outside without access to adequate shelter constitutes a violation of the Eighth Amendment. They stress that homelessness itself should not be criminalized. The ACLU argues that there simply is not a proportionate punishment for such a circumstance.

Other plaintiff backing

Backing the plaintiffs, various advocacy groups, including Disability Rights Oregon and the Oregon Food Bank, have emphasized that punitive measures, like fines and jail time, exacerbate the challenges faced by homeless individuals. Additionally, nearly 50 nationwide groups, including the Equality Federation in Portland, have urged the Supreme Court to declare homelessness-related ordinances unconstitutional. Each also highlights the disproportionate impact on the LGBTQ+ community.

Grants Pass v. Johnson encapsulates the intricate nature of homelessness. It shed a light on the necessity for compassionate and pragmatic solutions in the face of outright bans. As the Supreme Court deliberates, the outcome of this case holds significance in shaping future policies and approaches towards homelessness on a national scale. It serves as a call for reflection and action, and it is imperative that local governments and states address homelessness with empathy and effectiveness.