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SPLC Reaffirms Commitment to End the Criminalization of Homelessness After U.S. Supreme Court Decision

WASHINGTON  Today, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of the city of Grants Pass, Oregon, and set a precedent for criminalizing people who are experiencing homelessness. Originally filed in 2018, Johnson v. Grants Pass was taken up by the U.S. Supreme Court as other states, including Georgia and Florida, have passed legislation that restricts sleeping or unauthorized “camping” on public property.

“Homelessness is a humanitarian crisis, not a moral failing,” said Kirsten Anderson, deputy legal director for economic justice at the SPLC. “The Supreme Court held that it is a crime to be homeless — at a moment in which housing is unaffordable for half the people in the country — proving that it continues to be out of touch with the American public. As a country, we must stop arresting, fining and jailing people for not having housing, and instead address the issues that are causing housing to be unaffordable.”

The SPLC submitted an amicus brief to the Supreme Court in support of the claims of the plaintiffs experiencing homelessness. The brief examines the problematic history behind vagrancy laws, which were used as a tool of economic and racial subjugation, particularly in the Deep South, and cited as justification in this case. In April, the SPLC joined the National Homelessness Law Center’s Housing Not Handcuffs coalition to rally in support of people experiencing homelessness as the Court heard oral arguments in the case.