A recent Department of Justice statement about a legal dispute in Boise, ID that make it illegal to sleep in public “presented U.S. cities with a legal test for laws that effectively outlaw homelessness.
As one response, cities such as San Francisco and Vancouver, WA are reconsidering their own ordinances.
“The DOJ’s statement did more than simply weigh in on the Boise case—it presented U.S. cities with a legal test for laws that effectively outlaw homelessness. Municipalities across America have now been notified: If a law criminalizes sleeping outside when shelter space is otherwise unavailable, then in the eyes of the DOJ that law violates the Constitution.”
The DOJ statement raises moral critical moral questions.
“What qualifies as needlessly cruel treatment of the homeless? … And what if they’re denied shelter access because of their alcoholism, or they own a pet, or they run up against a maximum-stay limit, or they’d rather not take part in a shelter’s religious services? What if there aren’t enough local jobs for them to find employment? What if there’s a chronic lack of affordable housing?”
The article’s author Robert Rosenberger concludes by making the case that the “best strategy for all involved” is creating enough permanent housing for the homeless.
“In fact, studies are finding that simply giving homes to the homeless is much less expensive than the combined costs of emergency room visits, policing, and criminal prosecution … There are ways to write policies that are considerate of the needs of people who have very little.”