Supreme Court to consider ban on homeless people sleeping outside

FILE-Tents housing the homeless at an encampment in Echo Lake Park in Los Angeles, California on March 24, 2021. (Photo by FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images)

The Supreme Court will decide whether banning homeless people from sleeping outside when there is a lack of shelter space is deemed cruel and unusual punishment. 

Arguments in the case will be heard by the SCOTUS on Monday, which is considered one of the most important to come before the high court in years on homelessness, an issue that is climbing to record levels in the United States.

The Associated Press reported that in California and other Western states, courts have ruled that it’s unconstitutional to fine and arrest people sleeping in homeless encampments if shelter space is scarce. 

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Advocacy groups assert that allowing cities to punish people who need a place to sleep will criminalize homelessness and make the crisis worse. 

Additionally, the Justice Department contends that people shouldn’t be penalized for sleeping outside only if it’s determined that the individuals don’t have anywhere to go.

According to the Associated Press, the case comes from the rural Oregon town of Grants Pass, which began issuing fines of $295 for people sleeping outside to manage homeless encampments that sprung up in the city's public parks as the cost of housing rose.

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Citing federal data, the AP noted that homelessness in the U.S. rose 12%, to its highest reported level with rising rents and a decline in COVID-19 assistance combined to make housing more expensive for Americans. 

The court is expected to decide the case by the end of June.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.  This story was reported from Washington, D.C.