Tuesday, December 17, 2019
By declining to hear the 9th Circuit case of Martin v. Boise, the Supreme Court permitted to stand that circuit's ruling that people who experience homelessness cannot be criminally charged for sleeping in public outdoor spaces without offering the individuals alternative shelter. This case arose in the criminal context where the City of Boise sought to arrest those sleeping in public who were homeless. This case is part of a broader trend across the US to criminalize homelessness and poverty. The case recognizes the lack of choice that leads to homelessness and emphasizes that the governmental unit must provide a reasonable alternative. Arrest addresses a municipality's immediate concern while contributing to worsening the problem as those who then have criminal records will have even a lesser chance of obtaining adequate shelter.
The case both on the Supreme Court and Circuit levels is an advancement in legal recognition of a fundamental human right to shelter. In particular, this decision recognizes the state's obligation to provide adequate shelter to those who do not have adequate housing or other shelter. Perhaps results in Martin v. Boise will prompt cities and states to consider sustainable solutions to homeless such as affordable housing construction, education and skills training.