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4 dead as severe storms hit Houston, TX; Election Protection Program eases access to voting information; surge in solar installations eases energy costs for Missourians; IN makes a splash for Safe Boating Week.

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The Supreme Court rules funding for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is okay, election deniers hold key voting oversight positions in swing states, and North Carolina lawmakers vote to ban people from wearing masks in public.

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SCOTUS to hear Oregon case on criminalizing homelessness

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Friday, April 5, 2024   

A case out of Oregon soon to be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court could have a major impact on how cities treat homelessness. Oral arguments for 'Johnson v. Grants Pass' are scheduled for April 22.

It concerns an ordinance in the City of Grants Pass that banned people from sleeping in public, including a prohibition on the use of blankets and pillows.

Loren Naldoza, public policy advocate with Oregon Food Bank, which filed an amicus brief with 15 other organizations in the state in support of the plaintiffs, said homelessness isn't a lifestyle choice.

"It's an involuntary state of being because there have been systems or crises - like our housing crisis, our cost of living crisis or personal crises - that are impacting people across the state, that converge together and make it harder for people to stay stably housed," he explained.

The 9th District Court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs that the Grants Pass law violates the Eighth Amendment against cruel and unusual punishment. Supporters of the Grants Pass law say cities should be allowed to decide their own policies rather than the federal government.

Naldoza said criminalizing homelessness isn't an effective tool and would only create more hunger and poverty, and added people who exit the criminal justice system struggle in many different ways.

"What you get at the end is criminal record, which makes it harder for people who are formerly experiencing homelessness to find a safe, stable or affordable place to call home. And it's also hard to get gainful employment, especially if the employment requires a background check or licensure," he continued.

Naldoza added there are more effective ways to address this crisis.

"What we really need to be investing in is care and compassion, and treatment and other resources that people actually need to exit their experience from homelessness," he said.

Disclosure: Oregon Food Bank contributes to our fund for reporting on Community Issues and Volunteering, Education, Health Issues, Hunger/Food/Nutrition. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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