The Supreme Court Says Homelessness is a Crime

A homeless person in Grants Pass, Oregon

In yet another recent Supreme Court ruling, our rights as human beings are being stripped away from us. On Friday, June 28, the Supreme Court ruled 6-3 in favor of the city of Grants Pass, Oregon to allow civil and criminal penalties for camping on public land. Local and state governments now have the power to criminalize anyone for sleeping on public land, which particularly affects unhoused people.

The majority of judges argued that punishing people for sleeping on public land, even where no shelter beds are available, does not constitute “cruel and unusual” punishment, and claim that the ruling does not target unhoused people particularly.

This decision is backdropped by a growing housing crisis: the 2023 unhoused count is the highest it has been since reporting began in 2007 according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, with roughly 650,000 people experiencing lack of shelter on any single night. This was an increase of 12% compared to 2022. This number will only worsen as housing becomes less and less affordable, with over half of all renters in the U.S. burdened by housing costs.

With many people one crisis away from being unhoused, we must ask, who is this Supreme Court decision benefiting? Fining or imprisoning people who are already unable to access housing punishes people who are lacking a basic human need, while attempting to banish the problem from public sight.

The judicial system is structured to do the bidding of the rich owning class, and its decision-makers will always bend logic to uphold the status quo. The judges and the courts cannot solve the crises of capitalism, so they make decisions to punish those bearing the brunt of those crises.

Access to housing is a human right, and we have the ability to house all humans on this planet. The only thing stopping us are those in power trying to keep us down and out.