Housing Matters Leadership Statement on Johnson V. Grants Pass

July 3rd, 2024
Housing Matters Board of Directors and the Executive Team

“Sleep is a biological necessity, not a crime. For some people, sleeping outside is their only option.”

–       Justice Sotomayor, writing the dissenting opinion in City of Grants Pass v Johnson

Last week, the US Supreme Court issued a ruling in the case City of Grants Pass v Johnson that allows local governments to fine and imprison our unhoused family, friends, or neighbors for sleeping in public, even if they are inside their cars, and even when no other shelter space is available.

Housing Matters is saddened and concerned by this decision, which comes amidst a growing wave of criminalization ordinances, and amidst overwhelming evidence that those criminalization strategies have failed to reduce unsheltered homelessness. These coercive and counterproductive policies are roadblocks in the process of helping people return to permanent housing, undermining our work. They are also overwhelmingly ineffective at “moving” unsheltered homelessness out-of-sight, with research demonstrating that encampments will resurface when adequate shelter or housing is not available. Most importantly, they leave some of the most vulnerable people in our society with an impossible choice: either stay awake or be arrested.

Californians can show our local and state lawmakers that we do not support policies that exacerbate homelessness. Money spent on criminalization would be better spent on supportive services that help people find housing.