KTTH OPINION

Rantz: Supreme Court’s Grants Pass ruling lets us finally ditch progressive homeless policies

Jun 28, 2024, 7:10 AM

Supreme Court homeless...

A volunteer holds on to a wheelchair as they help a homeless man, Max Hartfelt, into his tent after relocating him from one park to another on Saturday, March 23, 2024, in Grants Pass, Ore. (Photo: Jenny Kane, The Associated Press)

(Photo: Jenny Kane, The Associated Press)

The Supreme Court (SCOTUS) decision favoring the City of Grants Pass, Oregon, is a monumental step forward in addressing the rampant homeless crisis plaguing the West Coast, particularly Seattle. It means the reign of failed progressive policies being forced on everyone may finally end.

The SCOTUS decision, in a 6-3 ruling, empowers cities to enforce anti-camping ordinances, crucial for restoring safety, cleanliness, and order in our communities. Under an inhumane Ninth Circuit Court ruling, municipalities weren’t allowed to sweep encampments unless a local shelter bed was available for each person at the encampment. But many of these encampments are filled with homeless people unwilling to accept offers of shelter, instead, choosing to live in absolute squalor to the detriment of communities. (A PDF of the Supreme Court decision can be  viewed here.)

SCOTUS just ended that enabling policy that has allowed homeless encampments to spiral out of control.

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How does the Grants Pass Supreme Court ruling impact Seattle homeless policy?

For years, cities like Seattle have been shackled by legal constraints that prioritized the rights of the homeless to camp on public property over the rights of taxpaying citizens to live in clean, safe neighborhoods.

The Ninth Circuit’s misguided 2018 decision in Martin v. City of Boise set a dangerous precedent, effectively rendering cities powerless to address the proliferation of encampments. While this kind of policy was cheered on by activists in Seattle, it was forced on cities like Burien, where leaders understand that encampment sweeps must be part of an overall homeless policy. Grants Pass just provided a beacon of hope for cities with reasonable leaders.

As much as the Radical Left would have you believe otherwise, the Supreme Court homeless ruling in Grants Pass isn’t about being heartless or unsympathetic to those struggling with homelessness. It’s merely about restoring balance and common sense while offering cities another tool to move the homeless into shelters where they can get the help they desperately need.

Seattle’s streets have been overrun by makeshift shelters, piles of trash, and open drug use. Taxpayers who obey laws and contribute to the community are then left to deal with the dangers encampments bring. Too many leaders then justify inaction by blaming the Ninth Circuit ruling.

The Supreme Court’s decision recognizes the necessity of having enforceable regulations to maintain public order and safety. Grants Pass rightly argued to SCOTUS that cities must have the authority to enforce ordinances that prohibit camping in public spaces.

This isn’t just about aesthetics; it’s about public health and safety. Homeless encampments are breeding grounds for crime, disease, and drug abuse, as outlined by Grants Pass. In Seattle, these encampments have become hotspots for violent crime, including assaults and homicides.

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Progressive homeless policy made the crisis worse in Seattle

Seattle’s progressive policies have only exacerbated the homeless problem.

The city’s so-called “compassionate” approach has been anything but effective. Instead of providing real solutions, it merely enabled a lifestyle of dependency and lawlessness. The Supreme Court’s ruling in Grants Pass should be a wake-up call to city officials: It’s time to get serious about addressing homelessness. Handing out tents and fentanyl pipes is not a solution; it’s a Band-Aid on a gaping wound.

Shelters, treatment programs, and “supportive housing” are available, but many homeless individuals refuse to use them because they prefer the freedom of the streets. By removing the option to camp in public spaces, we can nudge them towards these resources, ultimately providing a pathway to recovery and stability.

Moreover, this ruling can help reinvigorate our public parks and sidewalks, making them accessible and enjoyable for everyone. Families should be able to take their children to the park without worrying about stumbling upon tin foil covered in fentanyl residue. Businesses, already struggling to recover from the pandemic, will benefit from cleaner, safer streets, attracting more customers and boosting the local economy.

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Will homeless policy change in Seattle after Grants Pass SCOTUS ruling?

We shouldn’t expect that, even with the legal backing to enforce anti-camping ordinances, Seattle will reclaim its public spaces. The policy of 2024 will remain. But at least other cities are free from policies forced upon them.

Critics will undoubtedly scream that this ruling is inhumane. Allowing people to live in squalor, surrounded by filth and danger, is what’s truly inhumane. It’s killing scores of people who don’t need to die. Enforcing anti-camping laws is about setting standards and providing pathways to better living conditions. It’s about restoring dignity to both the homeless population and the community as a whole.

Seattle has a long road ahead in addressing its homelessness crisis. The Supreme Court’s decision takes away any legal excuse to maintain the status quo. City officials should capitalize on this ruling by developing and implementing holistic strategies that include outreach, support services, and sweeps and enforcement.

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Supreme Court ruling does more for homeless crisis than allow for sweeps, of course

It’s not enough to simply clear the encampments.

If we stopped wasting tens of millions on buying hotels to be used as permanent supportive housing, we could actually fund effective detox programs and social services staff to help guide the homeless onto the right path.

The Supreme Court homeless ruling with Grants Pass should be seen as a clear mandate for common sense and public order. Now, it’s up to city leaders to take this ruling and run with it, crafting policies that balance compassion with accountability.

Seattle can be a beautiful, vibrant city once again, but it starts with reclaiming our streets and parks from the grip of homelessness. The Supreme Court has given us the green light; let’s not squander this opportunity to make real, lasting change.

More from Jason Rantz: I witnessed a homeless man overdose and it highlights Seattle’s failures

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Rantz: Supreme Court’s Grants Pass ruling lets us finally ditch progressive homeless policies