Ninth Circuit ruling stands: cities cannot criminalize sleeping outdoors

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A story in yesterday’s Guardian details the refusal by the United States Supreme Court to hear an appeal of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals’ ruling in Martin v City of Boise. The Martin decision held that laws criminalizing “camping” constituted cruel and unusual punishment on the part of cities that did not provide enough shelter beds and other services to provide unhoused persons with an alternative to sleeping outdoors. The Court’s refusal to hear the appeal leaves the ruling in place, blocking for now the effort by a group of West Coast cities to deal with their housing and displacement crises by criminalizing homelessness. Addressing the multiple legal, political, and social factors driving displacement and homelessness, and achieving real progress on housing justice, faces a long road ahead. Today we are grateful that we are at least not beginning a new year in that struggle faced with a set of laws that would actively exacerbate the problem and deepen its injustice.