9th “Circus” Court Elevates Rights of Homeless Above Others
Thanks to a new court ruling from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, homeless people cannot be arrested for sleeping outside unless there is documented evidence that adequate space was available for sleeping in a homeless shelter. The ruling comes in the wake of long-lasting lawsuit that began in 2009 when six homeless people sued Boise, Idaho, for convicting them of “breaking local camping and disorderly conduct ordinances” by sleeping outside or camping “in buildings, streets, and other public places.” The court ruled that fining or arresting people for these practices violates the Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
NOTE FROM BRYAN: There's a reason that the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals is called the “9th CIRCUS Court”. The 9th Circuit is the most often overturned of all the regional circuit courts in America, with about 80% of it's cases heard by the Supreme Court being overturned. This court is a bastion of political activism, staffed almost entirely with judges who do not care for the law but for their own policy objectives. The 9th Circuit is a shameful stain on the U.S. judicial system.
The Eighth Amendment states that, among other things, “cruel and unusual punishments [shall not be] inflicted” by the government, including “excessive fines.” The plaintiffs in the case said the arrests and convictions – not to mention the fines – were all in violation of this amendment because there were no other places for them to sleep. “A municipality cannot criminalize such behavior consistently with the Eighth Amendment when no sleeping space is practically available in any shelter,” wrote the judges’ panel on the subject. The judges went on to state that the city government of Boise had made the arrests and levied fines “on the false premise [the plaintiffs] had a choice in the matter.”
While this ruling is certainly a victory for homeless advocacy groups, cities trying desperately to control rising homeless populations and cultivate gentrification in previously low-income areas will find it problematic. Homeless advocates say that gentrification essentially pressures a city to remove homeless populations rather than solve the issues, such as a lack of affordable housing, that may have contributed to their growth. Not surprisingly, most municipal governments and many of their constituents say that these types of rules are ripe for abuse.
For example, in San Francisco, California, a 2016 law that prohibited the removal of tents from sidewalks and other public areas unless the city offered placement in shelters or other public housing, provided transportation to homes of friends and family, and served official, 24-hour notice, has resulted in some very problematic issues for local residents. To address those problems, the city has employed a “poop patrol” where employees may earn in excess of $70,000 a year plus benefits for removing human feces from the sidewalks and budgeted more than $1 million for mobile toilets and waste stations that will remain open on “expanded hours” (past 8 pm).
Most analysts, advocates, and municipal leaders agree that one of the issues contributing to homelessness is housing affordability. In California, where the homeless population jumped 14 percent between 2017 and 2018 and only about 20 percent of the housing inventory is considered “affordable and available” to extremely low-income households, the correlation is nearly universally acknowledged. However, California’s near-total lack of policy adjustments that would allow for the creation of more housing inventory in those income brackets in the state is also to blame.
What do you think about this ruling? Is gentrification a problem or a solution for housing markets?