New Ways To Question The Very Existence Of Being Homeless

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The wait for the US Supreme Court to rule on Grants Pass v Johnson is over. It is not the decision that Gloria Johnson (the Johnson in Grants Pass v Johnson) and others were hoping for.

The majority of judges decided that people who are homeless are not allowed to sleep in public spaces. The eighth amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which includes forbidding cruel and unusual treatment, does not apply.

The minority opinion, written by Justice Sotomayor, disputes the decision, pointing out that “sleeping is a biological necessity, not a crime.”

As well, the minority notes that governments already punish people who are homeless in multiple ways, including clearing encampments and issuing tickets and fines. This article in The Conversation reviews a catalogue of ways that authorities tell people who are homeless that they are not welcome: Spikes, seat dividers, even ‘Baby Shark’ − camping bans like the one under review at SCOTUS are part of broader strategies that push out homeless people

The impact of this decision is expected to ripple throughout the United States and beyond. The article linked below is published in Slate. The author, Shirin Ali winds up the article this way, with a final quote from the minority position:

‘The Constitution was meant to provide basic rights to all Americans rich and poor, housed and unhoused, Sotomayor concluded. It’s the Supreme Court’s duty to safeguard those rights, “even when, and perhaps especially when, doing so is uncomfortable or unpopular. Otherwise, the words of the Constitution become little more than good advice.”’

Why has the US Supreme Court decided that some people who are homeless are not allowed to sleep? Where will the court go next? Chopping off more basic needs? Targetting another group of people? Is this the future that any of us really wants? Why don’t we get on with building the housing and finding the way to create the resources to end this crisis?

Read more on the decision and the minority position in Slate: The Supreme Court Ruled That It’s OK to Criminalize Sleeping While Homeless

For a more detailed discussion of the Supreme Court decision, which may well add to the deadly impact of being homelessness both inside and outside America, read more in The Guardian: ‘Terrifying and dystopian’: the dark realities of the supreme court’s homelessness decision