LOCAL NEWS

Court rules again: Homeless can still legally sleep in public

Apr 3, 2019, 1:46 PM
homeless, seattle, homelessness...
A homeless man sleeps on the sidewalk in Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
(AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

If September’s Ninth Circuit Court ruling determined that people experiencing homelessness can indeed sleep on the sidewalk, and in other public spaces, then this week’s decision cements it.

“Criminally punishing homeless people for sleeping on the street when they have nowhere else to go is inhumane, and we applaud the Court for ruling that it is also unconstitutional,” said Maria Foscarinis, executive director at the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty.

The decision stems from a case out of Boise where homeless advocates sued over the city’s laws which did not allow people to sleep on the sidewalk. NLCHP pursued the case, which even drew the attention of the Department of Justice.

RELATED: Regional leaders respond to homeless TV special
RELATED: Homeless camp advocates split up over management

The court ruled that Boise’s laws were unconstitutional in September — it is illegal to arrest or prosecute people for sleeping in public spaces if they have no where else to go. But Boise requested a rehearing. It was denied on April 1.

The case is also part of a national movement led by the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty — ending the criminalization of homelessness. The decision emerges amid a homelessness crisis plaguing the West Coast, and could affect other cities with policies on sleeping in public spaces — such as Seattle.

Though despite the win, the NLCHP does not expect the ruling to heavily influence other West Coast cities. A statement on the decision points out:

Judge Berzon, in her opinion, notes that the decision, while important, is unlikely to impose dire consequences on cities. “The distressing homelessness problem…has grown into a crisis for many reasons, among them the cost of housing, the drying up of affordable care for people with mental illness, and the failure to provide adequate treatment for drug addiction. The crisis continued to burgeon while ordinances forbidding sleeping in public were on the books and sometimes enforced.”

This week’s decision is 10 years in the making. The first lawsuit over Boise’s public sleeping laws was filed in 2009, arguing there wasn’t enough shelter space. Boise changed its laws in 2014, allowing people to sleep in public when shelters were full. But that solution was not satisfactory due to the limitations at many shelters. A lower court initially upheld Boise’s laws, but it was challenged in the Ninth Circuit Court where it was overturned.

“We are pleased that the Ninth Circuit held that the Constitution ‘prohibits the imposition of criminal penalties for sitting, sleeping, or lying outside on public property for homeless individuals who cannot obtain shelter,’” said Michael Bern, lead pro bono counsel from Latham & Watkins, who argued the case before the Ninth Circuit. 

“As the Department of Justice recognized earlier in this case, ‘[c]riminalizing public sleeping in cities with insufficient housing and support for homeless individuals does not improve public safety outcomes or reduce the factors that contribute to homelessness,’” he said. “With today’s decision, we hope that cities can redirect their efforts to identifying meaningful and constitutional solutions to the problem of homelessness.”

Local News

unemployment benefits...
Nicole Jennings

People quitting over vax mandate may qualify for unemployment benefits

Do people quitting their jobs over the vaccine mandate qualify for unemployment benefits? That all depends on a certain set of circumstances.
20 hours ago
covid memorial...
MyNorthwest Staff

King County councilmember proposes memorial for lives lost to COVID

King County Councilmember Reagan Dunn is proposing the creation of a public art memorial to honor those who lost their lives to COVID-19. 
20 hours ago
shakeout...
Kathryn Altena

Washington to participate in Great ShakeOut earthquake drill for 10th year

At 10:21 a.m. on Oct. 21 will be the annual Great ShakeOut earthquake and tsunami drill in Washington. Practice how you would drop, cover, and hold on.
20 hours ago
King County Metro...
Nick Bowman

King County reports 97% compliance with worker vaccine mandate

King County reported Tuesday that 97% of its employees have submitted paperwork in compliance with its vaccine mandate; 92% are fully vaccinated. 
20 hours ago
superstorm...
MyNorthwest Staff

Heavy rain, wind from tropical ‘superstorm’ headed to Northwest

A cyclone that began as a tropical superstorm is expected to reach waters off the coast of Washington state on Thursday.
20 hours ago
City Hall Park Seattle...
Nick Bowman

King County Council to forge ahead on bid to acquire troubled City Hall Park

King County Councilmembers voted 7-2 on Tuesday to approve legislation to explore options to assume control over Seattle's City Hall Park.
20 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...

Medicare open enrollment for 2022 starts Oct. 15 and SHIBA can help!

Washington State Office of the Insurance Commissioner SPONSORED — Medicare’s Open Enrollment Period, also called the Annual Election Period, is Oct. 15 to Dec. 7. During this time, people enrolled in Medicare can: Switch from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage plan and vice versa. Join, drop or switch a Part D prescription drug plan, […]
...

How to Have a Stress-Free Real Estate Experience

The real estate industry has adapted and sellers are taking full advantage of new real estate models. One of which is Every Door Real Estate.
...
IQ Air

How Poor Air Quality Is Affecting Our Future Athletes

You cannot control your child’s breathing environment 100% of the time, but you can make a huge impact.
...
Swedish Health Services

Special Coverage: National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month

There are a wide variety of treatment options available for men with prostate cancer. The most technologically advanced treatment option in the Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform.
...
Marysville Police Department

Police Opportunities in a Growing, Supportive Washington Community

Marysville PD is looking for both lateral and entry level officers. Begin or continue your career in law enforcement for a growing, supportive community.
...
Comcast

Small, Minority-Owned Businesses in King County and Pierce County Can Now Apply For $10,000 Relief Grants Through Comcast RISE

Businesses in King County and Pierce County can apply beginning on October 1, 2021, at www.ComcastRISE.com for a chance to receive a $10,000 relief grant.
Court rules again: Homeless can still legally sleep in public