BEDS Plus Statement on City of Grants Pass Oregon v. Johnson

Like homeless agencies throughout the country, we were disappointed to learn about the Supreme Court’s decision in City of Grant’s Pass Oregon v. Johnson.

Homeless advocates believe the ruling allows cities to “criminalize homelessness” even when they do not have adequate shelter capacity. The National Coalition for the Homeless defines the criminalization of homelessness as “measures that prohibit life-sustaining activities such as sleeping/camping, eating, sitting, and/or asking for money/resources in public spaces.” People violating these restrictions face arrest, fines, and/or police harassment, which can aggravate trauma, mental illness, and behavioral health conditions. They can easily fall into a cycle of repeated arrests, incarceration, and homelessness.

These policies do not work. The lack of affordable housing throughout the country causes homelessness. Criminalization only removes people experiencing homelessness from public view. It shifts the burden of caring for them to other communities and/or the already overcrowded criminal justice system (from where they will be ten times more likely to experience homelessness again). And it perversely lets communities punish people experiencing homelessness for their (the communities’) lack of affordable housing, resources, and imagination. Some see these policies as an attractive quick fix to growing, visible homelessness, but enforcing them is three times more expensive than just “finding housing." Specifically, the Homeless Voice describes how criminalizing one person experiencing homelessness costs taxpayers more than $31,000 a yearf. We and our partners in the homeless services field offer a better way.

"For nearly 40 years, BEDS has been committed to developing safe, cost effective, and community-integrated solutions to homelessness.”

-Tina Rounds, Chief Executive Officer

The Grants Pass decision does not require cities to criminalize homelessness. We encourage municipalities in Southwest Suburban Cook County to work with us and other human services agencies to meet vulnerable peoples’ needs. This can range from supporting our continued development of shelter, supportive housing and other service facilities like our Cicero Avenue Triage Center, Ogden Avenue Supportive Housing, and Summit Service Center to creating channels to refer people experiencing homelessness to our Street Outreach and Emergency Walk-In Center programs.

If you are a Village official or employee concerned about people experiencing homelessness, please contact our Chief Executive Officer Tina Rounds at rounds@beds-plus.org or 708.354.0858 ext. 104 to learn how we can help.

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