Blog Statement: YIMBY Action and YIMBY Law Condemn Supreme Court For Further Criminalizing Homelessness In Grants Pass Decision

YIMBY Action and YIMBY Law condemn today's Supreme Court decision in today's Johnson vs Grant's Pass ruling. We need our elected officials and government agencies to take urgent action to help people with immediate housing needs and implement solutions to tackle our national housing shortage, which is raising prices and pushing Americans out of their homes.

June 28, 2024

YIMBY Action and YIMBY Law condemn today’s Supreme Court decision in Johnson vs. Grants Pass. Under the ruling, cities and counties can arrest, ticket, and fine people for sleeping outdoors on public property even if local leaders have not permitted or produced enough homes and shelter for everyone who needs it.

“This decision will result in local governments punishing people who already face exorbitant systemic barriers to housing,” said Rafa Sonnenfeld, Policy Director at YIMBY Action and YIMBY Law. “This decision will prevent people from sheltering themselves when they have no alternatives in their community; and it will create more barriers to their ability to access resources they need while on a path to being securely housed.”

The ruling undermines significant precedent from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals which asserted that arresting people experiencing homelessness for sleeping on public property outdoors is cruel and unusual punishment. Although today’s ruling does not formally overrule the prior decision, it will still result in significant arrests and other cruel punishments for our unhoused neighbors. The Grants Pass ruling asserts that city and county officials can penalize “conduct,” and that sleeping on public property outdoors is conduct that people can engage in regardless of housing status.

“Arresting unhoused people for being unhoused is not only cruel and absurd, it also does nothing to end homelessness,” said Laura Foote, Executive Director at YIMBY Action. “Only homes can end homelessness.”

YIMBY Action and YIMBY Law urge local, state, and federal governments to pass and urgently implement policies that will result in abundant, affordable homes for people at every income level. At a time when the housing shortage is pushing more people out of their homes every day, elected officials and government agencies must have a sharp focus on implementing solutions that will help people with immediate housing needs while creating sustainable, systemic solutions that will prevent future homelessness and housing instability.

YIMBY Law and its volunteers, alongside YIMBY Action chapters and members, will continue to advocate for and defend housing proposals that will permanently end homelessness including subsidized affordable homes and permanent supportive housing. YIMBY Action and its fifty-five chapters across the US will continue to advocate for policies that will permanently end homelessness. Types of policies we advocate for include incentivizing the construction of subsidized affordable homes; increasing funding for subsidized affordable homes; increasing housing stability; legalizing more housing types in more places; and reducing the amount of time and money required to get new homes approved.

“Our unhoused neighbors deserve stable homes, not cruelty and punishment,” said Andrew Gothard, Associate Director of Chapters at YIMBY Action. “Now more urgently than ever we need homes for all. Especially people experiencing homelessness and housing instability. Homelessness is a policy choice, and it’s past time we made better choices.”