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Supreme Court declines to hear case over homeless people sleeping outdoors

By Sommer Brokaw
Supreme Court declines to hear case over homeless people sleeping outdoors
The U.S. Supreme Court Monday declined to hear a case about whether homeless people sleeping outdoors should be criminalized.  File Photo by Ezio Petersen/UPI | License Photo

Dec. 16 (UPI) -- The Supreme Court declined Monday to hear a case to revive local government laws making it a crime for homeless people to sleep outside.

The case involving six homeless people in Boise, Idaho, argued in the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that local laws against "camping" in streets, parks or other public property, or "lodging or sleeping" without permission violated the Eighth Amendment's prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. The lower court sided with plaintiffs, saying the Constitution does not allow prosecuting people for doing so if there is no shelter available. City of Boise, Idaho, lawyers brought the petition to the U.S. Supreme Court, arguing against the lower court's decision.

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"We're thrilled that the court has let the 9th Circuit decision stand so that homeless people are not punished for sleeping on the streets when they have no other option," Maria Foscarinis, executive director of the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, said in a statement. "But ultimately, our goal is to end homelessness through housing -- which is effective and saves taxpayer dollars -- so that no one has to sleep on the streets in the first place. We hope that the 9th Circuit decision will help communities find the political will to put that housing in place. Housing, not handcuffs, is what ends homelessness."

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Boise, a city of 225,000, operates three homeless shelters serving about 900 people.

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The city brought along support from other states, cities and business groups that filed 20 friend-of-the court briefs that warned of crime, violence, disease and environmental hazards.

The Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority has counted 27,221 unsheltered people in the city.

"The consequences of the 9th Circuit's erroneous decision have already been -- and will continue to be -- far-reaching and catastrophic," the petition to the Supreme Court said. "Encampments provide a captive and concentrated market for drug dealers and gangs who prey on the vulnerable. It is thus no surprise that nearly 1,000 homeless people died on the streets last year in Los Angeles County alone."

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